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First Published . . . November zoth 7070 
Second Edition. . . . February 1920 

Third Edition . . . 79*7 


K. J. M. 


OF these little essays, one appeared originally 
in The Star> eight in The Outlook^ and the 
remainder in The Sphere, They were written 
during two periods ; some within the last year, 
others as long ago as 1910-1912 ; but they 
are not printed here in chronological order, 
and the reader must guess for himself (if that 
sort of thing amuses him) which are the earlier 
articles and which the later. Not, of course, 

that it matters. 

A. A. M. 




ACACIA ROAD ...... 7 

MY LIBRARY . . . . . .12 

THE CHASE . . . . . .18 

SUPERSTITION . . . . . -23 

THE CHARM OF GOLF . . . .28 

GOLDFISH . . . . . 33 


THE POND ... . . . -43 



A WORD FOR AUTUMN . . . .60 



DAFFODILS ...... 80 

A HOUSEHOLD BOOK . . . , .85 

LUNCH . . * . i . .90 

THE FRIEND OF MAN . . . '95 

THE DIARY HABIT . . . . . 101 


Not That It Matters 


MIDSUMMER DAY ..... 106 
Ax THE BOOKSTALL . . . . .112 

"WHO'S WHO" 118 

A DAY AT LORD'S . . . . .124 

BY THE SEA ...... 129 

GOLDEN FRUIT . . . . .134 



A QUESTION OF FORM . . . .150 

A SLICE OF FICTION . . . . .155 

THE LABEL ...... 160 

THE PROFESSION . . . . .166 


THE PATH TO GLORY . . . .176 



NATURAL SCIENCE . . . . .191 

ON GOING DRY . . . . 196 










The Pleasure of Writing o o o 

^ OMETJMES when the printer is waiting for 
wJan article which really should have been sent 
to him the day before, I sit at my desk and 
wonder if there is any possible subject in the 
whole world upon which I can possibly find any- 
thing to say. On one such occasion I left it to 
Fate, which decided, by means of a dictionary 
opened at random, that 1 should deliver myself 
of a few thoughts about goldfish. (You will find 
this article later on in the book.) But to-day I 
do not need to bother about a subject. To-day 
I am without a care. Nothing less has happened 
than that I have a new nib in my pen. 

In the ordinary way, when Shakespeare writes 
a tragedy, or Mr. Blank gives you one of his 
charming little essays, a certain amount of thought 
goes on before pen is put to paper. One cannot 
write " Scene I. An Open Place. Thunder and 
A I 

Not That It Matters 

Lightning. Enter Three Witches/' or "As I look 
up from my window, the nodding daffodils beckon 
to me to take the morning," one cannot give of 
one's best in this way on the spur of the moment. 
At least, others cannot. But when I have a new 
nib in my pen, then I can go straight from my 
breakfast to the blotting-paper, and a new sheet 
of foolscap fills itself magically with a stream of 
blue-black words. When poets and idiots talk of 
the pleasure of writing, they mean the pleasure of 
giving a piece of their minds to the public ; with 
an old nib a tedious business. They do not 
mean (as I do) the pleasure of the artist in seeing 
beautifully shaped " k's " and sinuous " s's " grow 
beneath his steel. Anybody else writing this 
article might wonder " Will my readers like it ? " 
I only tell myself " How the compositors will 
love it ! " 

But perhaps they will not love it. Maybe I 
am a little above their heads. I remember on 
one First of January receiving an anonymous 
postcard wishing me a happy New Year, and 
suggesting that I should give the compositors a 
happy New Year also by writing nlore generously. 
In those days I got a thousand words upon one 
sheet 8 in. by 5 in. I adopted the suggestion, but 
it was a wrench ; as it would be for a painter of 

The Pleasure of Writing 

miniatures forced to spend the rest of his life 
painting the Town Council of Boffington in the 
manner of Herkomer. My canvases are bigger 
now, but they are still impressionistic. " Pretty, 
but what is it ? " remains the obvious comment ; 
one steps back a pace and saws the air with the 
hand ; " You see it better from here, my love," 
one says to one's wife. But if there be one 
compositor not carried away by the mad rush of 
life, who in a leisurely hour (the luncheon one, 
for instance) looks at the beautiful words with 
the eye of an artist, not of a wage-earner, he, I 
think, will be satisfied ; he will be as glad as I am 
of my new nib. Poes it matter, then, what you 
who see only the printed word think of it ? 

A woman, who had studied what she called 
the science of calligraphy, once offered to tell my 
character from my handwriting. I prepared a 
special sample for her ; it was full of sentences 
like " To be good is to be happy," " Faith is the 
lode-star of life," " We should always be kind to 
animals," and so on. I wanted her to do her 
best. She gave the morning to it, and told me 
at lunch that I was " synthetic." Probably you 
think that the compositor has failed me here and 
printed "synthetic" when I wrote "sympa- 
thetic." In just this way I misunderstood my 

Not That It Matters 

calligraphist at first, and I looked as sympathetic 
as I could. However, she repeated " synthetic/* 
so that there could be no mistake. I begged 
her to tell me more, for I had thought that 
every letter would reveal a secret, but all she 
would add was "and not analytic." I went 
about for the rest of the day saying proudly to 
myself " I am synthetic ! I am synthetic ! I am 
synthetic ! " and then I would add regretfully, 
" Alas, I am not analytic ! " I had no idea what 
it meant. 

And how do you think she had deduced my 
syntheticness ? Simply from the fact that, to 
save time, I join some of my words together. 
That isn't being synthetic, it is being in a hurry. 
What she should have said was, " You are a busy 
man ; your life is one constant whirl ; and prob- 
ably you are of excellent moral character and 
kind to animals." Then one would feel that one 
did not write in vain. 

My pen is getting tired ; it has lost its first fair 
youth. However, I can still go on. I was at 
school with a boy whose uncle made nibs. If 
you detect traces of erudition in this article, of 
which any decent man might be expected to be 
innocent, I owe it to that boy. He once told me 
how many nibs his uncle made in a year ; luckily 

The Pleasure of Writing 

I have forgotten. Thousands, probably. Every 
term that boy came back with a hundred of 
them ; one expected him to be very busy. After 
all, if you haven't the brains or the inclination to 
work, it is something to have the nibs. These 
nibs, however, were put to better uses. There is 
a game you can play with them ; you flick your 
nib against the other boy's nib, and if a lucky 
shot puts the head of yours under his, then a 
sharp tap capsizes him, and you have a hundred 
and one in your collection. There is a good deal 
of strategy in the game (whose finer points I have 
now forgotten), and I have no doubt that they 
play it at the Admiralty in the off season. 
Another game was to put a clean nib in your pen, 
place it lightly against the cheek of a boy whose 
head was turned away from you, and then call 
him suddenly. As Kipling says, we are the only 
really humorous race. This boy's uncle died a 
year or two later and left about 80,000, but 
none of it to his nephew. Of course, he had had 
the nibs every term. One mustn't forget that. 

The nib I write this with is called the 
" Canadian Quill " ; made, I suppose, from some 
steel goose which flourishes across the seas, and 
which Canadian housewives have to explain to 
their husbands every Michaelmas. Well, it has 

Not That It Matters 

seen me to the end of what I wanted to say if 
indeed I wanted to say anything. For it was 
enough for me this morning just to write ; with 
spring coming in through the open windows and 
my good Canadian quill in my hand, I could have 
copied out a directory. That is the real pleasure 
of writing. 

Acacia Road 

F course there are disadvantages of suburban 
V_X life. In the fourth act of the play there may, 
be a moment when the fate of the erring wife 
hangs in the balance, and utterly regardless of 
this the last train starts from Victoria at 11.15. 
It must be annoying to have to leave her at 
such a crisis ; it must be annoying too to have 
to preface the curtailed pleasures of the play 
with a meat tea and a hasty dressing in the 
afternoon. But, after all, one cannot judge life 
from its facilities for playgoing. It would be 
absurd to condemn the suburbs because of the 

There is a road eight miles from London up 
which I have walked, sometimes on my way 
to golf. I think it is called Acacia Road ; some 
pretty name like that. It may rain in Acacia 
Road, but never when I am there. The sun 
shines on Laburnum Lodge with its pink may 
tree, on the Cedars with its two clean limes, it 

Not That It Matters 

casts its shadow on the ivy of Holly House, 
and upon the whole road there rests a pleasant 
afternoon peace. I cannot walk along Acacia 
Road without feeling that life could be very 
happy in it when the sun is shining. It must 
be jolly, for instance, to live in Laburnum Lodge 
with its pink may tree. Sometimes I fancy that 
a suburban home is the true home after all. 

When I pass Laburnum Lodge I think of 
Him saying good-bye to Her at the gate, as he 
takes the air each morning on his way to the 
station. What if the train is crowded ? He 
has his newspaper. That will see him safely to 
the City. And then how interesting will be 
everything which happens to him there, since 
he has Her to tell it to when he comes home. 
The most ordinary street accident becomes ex- 
citing if a story has to be made of it. Happy 
the man who can say of each little incident, " I 
must remember to tell Her when I get home." 
And it is only in the suburbs that one "gets 
home." One does not " get home " to Grosvenor 
Square; one is simply "in" or "out." 

But the master of Laburnum Lodge may 

have something better to tell his wife than the 

incident of the runaway horse ; he may have 

heard a new funny story at lunch. The joke 


Acacia Road 

may have been all over the City, but it is 
unlikely that his wife in the suburbs will have 
heard it. Put it on the credit side of marriage 
that you can treasure up your jokes for some 
one else. And perhaps She has something for 
him too ; some backward plant, it may be, has 
burst suddenly into flower ; at least he will walk 
more eagerly up Acacia Road for wondering. 
So it will be a happy meeting under the pink 
may tree of Laburnum Lodge when these two 
are restored safely to each other after the ex- 
citements of the day. Possibly they will even 
do a little gardening together in the still glowing 

If life has anything more to offer than this it 
will be found at Holly House, where there are 
babies. Babies give an added excitement to the 
master's homecoming, for almost anything may 
have happened to them while he has been away. 
Dorothy perhaps has cut a new tooth and Anne 
may have said something really clever about 
the baker's man. In the morning, too, Anne 
will walk with him to the end of the road ; it is 
perfectly safe, for in Acacia Road nothing 
untoward could occur. Even the dogs are 
quiet and friendly. I like to think of the 
master of Holly House saying good-bye to Anne 

Not That It Matters 

at the end of the road and knowing that she 
will be alive when he comes back in the evening. 
That ought to make the day's work go quickly. 

But it is the Cedars which gives us the 
secret of the happiness of the suburbs. The 
Cedars you observe is a grander house altogether ; 
there is a tennis lawn at the back. And there 
are grown-up sons and daughters at the Cedars. 
In such houses in Acacia Road the delightful 
business of love-making is in full swing. Mar- 
riages are not " arranged " in the suburbs ; they 
grow naturally out of the pleasant intercourse 
between the Cedars, the Elms, and Rose Bank. 
I see Tom walking over to the Elms, racket in 
hand, to play tennis with Miss Muriel. He is 
hoping for an in>ptation to remain to supper, 
and indeed I think he will get it. Anyhow he 
is going to ask Miss Muriel to come across to 
lunch to-morrow ; his mother has so much to 
talk to her about. But it will be Tom who will 
do most of the talking. 

I am sure that the marriages made in 
Acacia R6ad are happy. That is why I have 
no fears for Holly House and Laburnum Lodge. 
Of course they didn't make love in this Acacia 
Road ; they are come from the Acacia Road 
of some other suburb, wisely deciding that 

Acacia Road 

they will be better away from their people. 
But they met each other in the same way as 
Tom and Muriel are meeting ; He has seen Her 
in Her own home, in His home, at the tennis 
club, surrounded by the young bounders (con- 
found them!) of Turret Court and the Wilder- 
ness ; She has heard of him falling off his 
bicycle or quarrelling with his father. Bless 
you, they know all about each other ; they are 
going to be happy enough together. 

And now I think of it, why of course there 
is a local theatre where they can do their play- 
going, if they are as keen on it as that. For 
ten shillings they can spread from the stage 
box an air of luxury and refinement over the 
house; and they can nod in an easy manner 
across the stalls to the Cedars in the opposite 
box in the deep recesses of which Tom and 
Muriel, you may be sure, are holding hands. 


My Library o o o o o 

WHEN I moved into a new house a few 
weeks ago, my books, as was natural, 
moved with me. Strong, perspiring men shovelled 
them into packing-cases, and staggered with 
them to the van, cursing Caxton as they went. 
On arrival at this end, they staggered with them 
into the room selected for my library, heaved off 
the lids of the cases, and awaited orders. The 
immediate need was for an emptier room. To- 
gether we hurried the books into the new white 
shelves which awaited them, the order in which 
they stood being of no matter so long as they 
were off the floor. Armful after armful was 
hastily stacked, the only pause being when (in 
the curious way in which these things happen) 
my own name suddenly caught the eye of the 
foreman. " Did you write this one, sir ? " he 
asked. I admitted it. "H'm," he said non- 
committally. He glanced along the names 
of every armful after that, and appeared a 


My Library 

little surprised at the number of books which 
I hadn't written. An easy-going profession, 

So we got the books up at last, and there they 
are still. I told myself that when a wet after- 
noon came along I would arrange them properly. 
When the wet afternoon came, I told myself that 
I would arrange them one of these fine mornings. 
As they are now, I have to look along every shelf 
in the search for the book which I want. To come 
to Keats is no guarantee that we are on the road 
to Shelley. Shelley, if he did not drop out on the 
way, is probably next to How to be a Golfer though 

Having written as far as this, I had to get up 
and see where Shelley really was. It is worse 
than I thought. He is between Geometrical 
Optics and Studies in New Zealand Scenery. Ella 
Wheeler Wilcox, whom I find myself to be enter- 
taining unawares, sits beside Anarchy or Order, 
which was apparently " sent in the hope that you 
will become a member of the Duty and Discipline 
Movement " a vain hope, it would seem, for 
I have not yet paid my subscription. What 1 
Found Out, by an English Governess, shares a 
corner with The Recreations of a Country Parson ; 
they are followed by Villette and Baedeker's 

Not That It Matters 

Switzerland. Something will have to be done 
about it. 

But I am wondering what is to be done. If I 
gave you the impression that my books were 
precisely arranged in their old shelves, I misled 
you. They were arranged in the order known as 
"all anyhow." Possibly they were a little less 
" anyhow " than they are now, in that the 
volumes of any particular work were at least 
together, but that is all that can be claimed for 
them. For years I put off the business of 
tidying them up, just as I am putting it off now. 
It is not laziness ; it is simply that I don't know 
how to begin. 

Let us suppose that we decide to have all the 
poetry together. It sounds reasonable. But then 
Byron is eleven inches high (my tallest poet), and 
Beattie (my shortest) is just over four inches. How 
foolish they will look standing side by side. Per- 
haps you don't know Beattie, but I assure you that 
he was a poet. He wrote those majestic lines: 

" The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made 
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock ; 
The sickle, scythe or plough he never swayed 
An honest heart was almost all his stock." 

Of course, one would hardly expect a shepherd to 
sway a plough in the ordinary way, but Beattie 

My Library 

was quite right to remind us that Edwin didn't 
either. Edwin was the name of the shepherd- 
swain. " And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar 
boy/' we are told a little further on in a line that 
should live. Well, having satisfied you that 
Beattie was really a poet, I can now return to my 
argument that an eleven-inch Byron cannot 
stand next to a four-inch Beattie, and be followed 
by an eight-inch Cowper, without making the 
shelf look silly. Yet how can I discard Beattie 
Beattie who wrote : 

"And now the downy cheek and deepened voice 
Gave dignity to Edwin's blooming prime." 

You see the difficulty. If you arrange your 
books according to their contents you are sure to 
get an untidy shelf. If you arrange your books 
according to their size and colour you get an 
effective wall, but the poetically inclined visitor 
may lose sight of Beattie altogether. Before, 
then, we decide what to do about it, we must ask 
ourselves that very awkward question, " Why do 
we have books on our shelves at all ? " It is a 
most embarrassing question to answer. 

Of course, you think that the proper answer 
(in your own case) is an indignant protest that 
you bought them in order to read them, and that 

Not That It Matters 

you put them on your shelves in order that you 
could refer to them when necessary. A little 
reflection will show you what a stupid answer 
that is. If you only want to read them, why are 
some of them bound in morocco and half-calf and 
other expensive coverings ? Why did you buy a 
first edition when a hundredth edition was so 
much cheaper ? Why have you got half a dozen 
copies of The Rubdiydt ? What is the particular 
value of this other book that you treasure it so 
carefully? Why, the fact that its pages are 
uncut. If you cut the pages and read it, the 
value would go. 

So, then, your library is not just for reference. 
You know as well as I do that it furnishes your 
room ; that it furnishes it more effectively than 
does paint or mahogany or china. Of course, it 
is nice to have the books there, so that one can 
refer to them when one wishes. One may be 
writing an article on sea-bathing, for instance, 
and have come to the sentence which begins : 
"In the well-remembered words of Coleridge, 
perhaps almost too familiar to be quoted " and 
then one may have to look them up. On these 
occasions a library is not only ornamental but 
useful. But do not let us be ashamed that we 
find it ornamental. 


My Library 

Indeed, the more I survey it, the more I feel 
that my library is sufficiently ornamental as it 
stands. Any reassembling of the books might 
spoil the colour-scheme. Baedeker 's Switzerland 
and VUlette are both in red, a colour which is 
neatly caught up again, after an interlude in blue, 
by a volume of Browning and Jevons' Elementary 
Logic. We had a woman here only yesterday 
who said, " How pretty your books look," and I 
am inclined to think that that is good enough. 
There is a careless rapture about them which 
I should lose if 1 started to arrange them 

But perhaps I might risk this to the extent of 
getting all their heads the same way up. Yes, 
on one of these fine days (or wet nights) I shall 
take my library seriously in hand. There are 
still one or two books which are the wrong way 
round. I shall put them the right way round. 

The Chase <:> o o o 

THE fact, as revealed in a recent lawsuit, 
hat there is a gentleman in this country 
who spends 10,000 a year upon his butterfly 
collection would have disturbed me more in 
the early nineties than it does to-day. I can 
bear it calmly now, but twenty-five years ago 
the knowledge would have spoilt my pride in 
my own collection, upon which I was already 
spending the best part of threepence a week 
pocket-money. Perhaps, though, I should have 
consoled myself with the ' thought that I was 
the truer enthusiast of the two ; for when my 
rival hears of a rare butterfly in Brazil, he sends 
a man out to Brazil to capture it, whereas I, 
when I heard that there was a Clouded Yellow 
in the garden, took good care that nobody but 
myself encompassed its death. Our aims also 
were different. I purposely left Brazil out of it. 

Whether butterfly-hunting is good or bad 
for the character I cannot undertake to decide. 

The Chase 

No doubt it can be justified as clearly as fox- 
hunting. If the fox eats chickens, the butter- 
fly's child eats vegetables ; if fox-hunting 
improves the breed of horses, butterfly-hunting 
improves the health of boys. But at least, we 
never told ourselves that butterflies liked being 
pursued, as (I understand) foxes like being 
hunted. We were moderately honest about it. 
And we comforted ourselves in the end with the 
assurance of many eminent naturalists that 
"insects don't feel pain." 

I have often wondered how naturalists dare 
to speak with such authority. Do they never 
have dreams at night of an after-life in some 
other world, wherein they are pursued by giant 
insects eager to increase their "naturalist 
collection " insects who assure each other 
carelessly that " naturalists don't feel pain " ? 
Perhaps they do so dream. But we, at any 
rate, slept well, for we had never dogmatized 
about a butterfly's feelings. We only quoted 
the wise men. 

But if there might be doubt about the 
sensitiveness of a butterfly, there could be no 
doubt about his distinguishing marks. It was 
amazing to us how many grown-up and (pre- 
sumably) educated men and women did not 

Not That It Matters 

know that a butterfly had knobs on the end of 
his antennae, and that the moth had none. 
Where had they been all these years to be so 
ignorant ? Well-meaning but misguided aunts, 
with mysterious promises of a new butterfly 
for our collection, would produce some common 
Yellow Underwing from an envelope, innocent 
(for which they may be forgiven) that only a 
personal capture had any value to us, but un- 
forgivably ignorant that a Yellow Underwing 
was a moth. We did not collect moths ; there 
were too many of them. And moths are 
nocturnal creatures. A hunter whose bed- 
time depends upon the whim of another is 
handicapped for the night-chase. 

But butterflies come out when the sun comes 
out, which is just when little boys should be 
out; and there are not too many butterflies in 
England. I knew them all by name once, and 
could have recognized any that I saw yes, 
even Hampstead's Albion Eye (or was it 
Albion's Hampstead Eye?), of which only one 
specimen had ever been caught in this country ; 
presumably by Hampstead or Albion. . In my 
day-dreams the second specimen was caught 
by me. Yet he was an insignificant-looking 
fellow, and perhaps I should have been better 


The Chase 

pleased with a Camberwell Beauty, a Purple 
Emperor, or a Swallowtail. Unhappily the 
Purple Emperor (so the book told us) haunted 
the tops of trees, which was to take an unfair 
advantage of a boy small for his age, and the 
Swallowtail haunted Norfolk, which was equally 
inconsiderate of a family which kept holiday in 
the south. The Camberwell Beauty sounded 
more hopeful, but I suppose the trams dis- 
heartened him. I doubt if he ever haunted 
Camberwell in my time. 

With threepence a week one has to be 
careful. It was necessary to buy killing-boxes 
and setting-boards, but butterfly-nets could be 
made at home. A stick, a piece of copper 
wire, and some muslin were all that were 
necessary. One liked the muslin to be green, 
for there was a feeling that this deceived the 
butterfly in some way ; he thought that Birnam 
Wood was merely coming to Dunsinane when 
he saw it approaching, and that the queer- 
looking thing behind was some local efflores- 
cence. So he resumed his dalliance with the 
herbaceous border, and was never more sur- 
prised in his life than when it turned out to be 
a boy and a butterfly-net. Green muslin, then, 
but a plain piece of cane for the stick. None 

Not That It Matters 

of your collapsible fishing-rods ''suitable for 
a Purple Emperor." Leave those to the 
millionaire's sons. 

It comes back to me now that I am doing 
this afternoon what I did more than twenty-five 
years ago ; I am writing an article upon the 
way to make a butterfly-net. For my first 
contribution to the press was upon this subject. 
I sent it to the editor of some boys' paper, and 
his failure to print it puzzled me a good deal, 
since every word in it (I was sure) was correctly 
spelt. Of course, I see now that you want 
more in an article than that. But besides 
being puzzled I was extremely disappointed, for 
I wanted badly the money that it should have 
brought in. I wanted it in order to buy a 
butterfly-net; the stick and the copper wire 
and the green muslin being (in my hands, at 
any rate) more suited to an article. 


Superstition o *> *> *> o 

I HAVE just read a serious column on the 
prospects for next year. This article con- 
sisted of contributions from ' experts in the 
various branches of industry (including one from 
a meteorological expert who, I need hardly tell 
you, forecasted a wet summer) and ended with 
a general summing up of the year by Old 
Moore or one of the minor prophets. Old 
Moore, I am sorry to say, left me cold. 

I should like to believe in astrology, but I 
cannot. I should like to believe that the 
heavenly bodies sort themselves into certain 
positions in order that Zadkiel may be kept in 
touch with the future ; the idea of a star whiz- 
zing a million miles out of its path by way of 
indicating a "sensational divorce case in high 
life" is extraordinarily massive. But, candidly, 
1 do not believe the stars bother. What the 
stars are for, what they are like when you get 
there, I do not know ; but a starry night would 
2 3 

Not That It Matters 

not be so beautiful if it were simply meant as 
a warning to some unpleasant financier that 
Kaffirs were going up.' The ordinary man looks 
at the heavens and thinks what an insignificant 
atom he is beneath them ; the believer in as- 
trology looks up and realizes afresh his over- 
whelming importance. Perhaps, after all, I am 
glad I do not believe. 

Life must be a very tricky thing for the 
superstitious. At dinner a night or two ago I 
happened to say that I had never been in danger 
of drowning. I am not sure now that it was 
true, but I still think that it was harmless. 
However, before I had time to elaborate my 
theme (whatever it was) I was peremptorily 
ordered to touch wood. I protested that both 
my feet were on the polished oak and both my 
elbows on the polished mahogany (one always 
knew that some good instinct inspired the 
pleasant habit of elbows on the table) and that 
anyhow I did not see the need. However, 
because one must not argue at dinner I tapped 
the table two or three times . . . and now I 
suppose I am immune. At the same time I 
should like to know exactly whom I have 

For this must be the idea of the wood-touch- 


ing superstition, that a malignant spirit dogs 
one's conversational footsteps, listening eagerly 
for the complacent word. " I have never had 
the mumps/' you say airily. " Ha, ha ! " says 
the spirit, " haven't you ? Just you wait till 
next Tuesday, my boy." 'Unconsciously we are 
crediting Fate with our own human weaknesses. 
If a man standing on the edge of a pond said 
aloud, " I have never fallen into a pond in my 
life," and we happened to be just behind him, 
the temptation to push him in would be irre- 
sistible. Irresistible, that is by us ; but it is 
charitable to assume that Providence can control 
itself by now. 

Of course, nobody really thinks that our good 
or evil spirits have any particular feeling about 
wood, that they like it stroked ; nobody, I sup- 
pose, not even the most superstitious, really 
thinks that Fate is especially touchy in the 
matter of salt and ladders. Equally, of course, 
many people who throw spilt salt over their left 
shoulders are not superstitious in the least, and 
are only concerned to display that readiness in 
the face of any social emergency which is said 
to be the mark of good manners. But there 
are certainly many who feel that it is the part 
of a wise man to propitiate the unknown, to 


Not That It Matters 

bend before the forces which work for harm ; 
and they pay tribute to Fate by means of these 
little customs in the hope that they will secure 
in return an immunity from evil. The tribute 
is nominal, but it is an acknowledgment all the 

A proper sense of proportion leaves no room 
for superstition. A man says, " I have never 
been in a shipwreck," and becoming nervous 
touches wood. Why is he nervous ? He has 
this paragraph before his eyes : " Among the 
deceased was Mr. . By a remarkable coin- 
cidence this gentleman had been saying only a 
few days before that he had never been in a 
shipwreck. Little did he think that his next 
voyage would falsify his words so tragically." 
It occurs to him that he has read paragraphs 
like that again and again. Perhaps he has. 
Certainly he has never read a paragraph like 

this : " Among the deceased was Mr. . By 

a remarkable coincidence this gentleman had 
never made the remark that he had not yet 
been in a shipwreck." Yet that paragraph could 
have been written truthfully thousands of times. 
A sense of proportion would tell you that, if 
only one side of a case is ever recorded, that 
side acquires an undue importance. 


The truth is that Fate does not go out of its 
way to be dramatic. If you or I had the power 
of life and death in our hands, we should no 
doubt arrange some remarkably bright and tell- 
ing effects. A man who spilt the salt callously 
would be drowned next week in the Dead Sea, 
and a couple who married in May would expire 
simultaneously in the May following. But Fate 
cannot worry to think out all the clever things 
that we should think out. It goes about its 
business solidly and unromantically, and by the 
ordinary laws of chance it achieves every now 
and then something startling and romantic. 
Superstition thrives on the fact that only the 
accidental dramas are reported. 

But there are charms to secure happiness as 
well as charms to avert evil. In these I am a 
firm believer. I do not mean that I believe 
that a horseshoe hung up in the house will 
bring me good luck ; I mean that if anybody 
does believe this, then the hanging up of his 
horseshoe will probably bring him good luck. 
For if you believe that you are going to be 
lucky, you go about your business with a smile, 
you take disaster with a smile, you start afresh 
with a smile. And to do that is to be in the 
way of happiness. 


The Charm of Golf o e> o *c> 

WHEN he reads of the notable doings of 
famous golfers, the eighteen- handicap 
man has no envy in his heart. For by this time 
he has discovered the great secret of golf. 
Before he began to play he wondered wherein 
lay the fascination of it ; now he knows. Golf 
is so popular simply because it is the best game 
in the world at which to be bad. 

Consider what it is to be bad at cricket. 
You have bought a new bat, perfect in balance ; 

- a new pair of pads, white as driven snow ; 
gloves of the very latest design. Do they let 
you use them? No. After one ball, in the 
negotiation of which neither your bat, nor your 
pads, nor your gloves came into play, they send 
you back into the pavilion to spend the rest of the 
afternoon listening to fatuous stories of some old 
gentleman who knew Fuller Pilch. And when 

your side takes the field, where are you ? Prob- 
ably at long leg both ends, exposed to the 


The Charm of Golf 

public gaze as the worst fieldsman in London. 
How devastating are your emotions. Remorse, 
anger, mortification, fill your heart ; above all, 
envy envy of the lucky immortals who disport 
themselves on the green level of Lord's. 

Consider what it is to be bad at lawn 
tennis. True, you are allowed to hold on to your 
new racket all through the game, but how often 
are you allowed to employ it usefully ? How 
often does your partner cry " Mine ! " and bundle 
you out of the way ? Is there pleasure in play- 
ing football badly ? You may spend the full 
eighty minutes in your new boots, but your 
relations with the ball will be distant. They 
do not give you a ball to yourself at football. 

But how different a game is golf. At golf 
it is the bad player who gets the most strokes. 
However good his opponent, the bad player has 
the right to play out each hole to the end ; he 
will get more than his share of the game. He 
need have no fears that his new driver will not 
be employed. He will have as many swings 
with it as the scratch man; more, if he misses 
the ball altogether upon one or two tees. If 
he buys a new niblick he is certain to get fun 
out of it on the very first day. 

And, above all, there is this to be said for 

Not That It Matters 

golfing mediocrity the bad player can make 
the strokes of the good player. The poor 
cricketer has perhaps never made fifty in his 
life; as soon as he stands at the wickets he 
knows that he is not going to make fifty to-day. 
But the eighteen-handicap man has some time or 
other played every hole on the course to perfec- 
tion. He has driven a ball 250 yards ; he has 
made superb approaches ; he has run down the 
long putt. Any of these things may suddenly 
happen to him again. And therefore it is not 
his fate to have to sit in the club smoking- 
room after his second round and listen to the 
wonderful deeds of others. He can join in too. 
He can say with perfect truth, " I once carried 
the ditch at the fourth with my second," or " I 
remember when I drove into the bunker guard- 
ing the eighth green," or even " I did a three at 
the eleventh this afternoon " bogey being five. 
But if the bad cricketer says, " I remember when 
I took a century in forty minutes off Lockwood 
and Richardson," he is nothing but a liar. 

For these and other reasons golf is the best 
game in the world for the bad player. And 
sometimes I am tempted to go further and say 
that it is a better game for the bad player than 
for the good player. The joy of driving a ball 


The Charm of Golf 

straight after a week of slicing, the joy of 
putting a mashie shot dead, the joy of even a 
moderate stroke with a brassie ; best of all, the 
joy of the perfect cleek shot these things the 
good player will never know. Every stroke we 
bad players make we make in hope. It is never 
so bad but it might have been worse ; it is never 
so bad but we are confident of doing better 
next time. And if the next stroke is good, what 
happiness fills our soul. How eagerly we tell 
ourselves that in a little while all our strokes 
will be as good. 

What does Vardon know of this ? If he 
does a five hole in four he blames himself that 
he did not do it in three ; if he does it in five 
he is miserable. He will never experience that 
happy surprise with which we hail our best 
strokes. Only his bad strokes surprise him, 
and then we may suppose that he is not happy. 
His length and accuracy are mechanical ; they 
are not the result, as so often in our case, of 
some suddenly applied maxim or some sud- 
denly discovered innovation. The only thing 
which can vary in his game is his putting, and 
putting is not golf but croquet. 

But of course we, too, are going to be as 
good as Vardon one day. We are only post- 
3 1 

Not That It Matters 

poning the day because meanwhile it is so 
pleasant to be bad. And it is part of the 
charm of being bad at golf that in a moment, 
in a single night, we may become good. If the 
bad cricketer said to a good cricketer, "What 
am I doing wrong ? " the only possible answer 
would be, " Nothing particular, except that you 
can't play cricket." But if you or I were to 
say -to our scratch friend, " What am I doing 
wrong ? " he would reply at once, " Moving 
the head " or " Dropping the right knee " or 
"Not getting the wrists in soon enough," and 
by to-morrow we should be different players. 
Upon such a little depends, or seems to the 
eighteen-handicap to depend, excellence in golf. 

And so, perfectly happy in our present bad- 
ness and perfectly confident of our future good- 
ness, we long-handicap men remain. Perhaps 
it would be pleasanter to be a little more 
certain of getting the ball safely off the first 
tee ; perhaps at the fourteenth hole, where there 
is a right of way and the public encroach, we 
should like to feel that we have done with 
topping ; perhaps 

Well, perhaps we might get our handicap 
down to fifteen this summer. But no lower ; 
certainly no lower. 


Goldfish *> o *> o o o 

LET us talk about well, anything you will. 
Goldfish, for instance. 

Goldfish are a symbol of old-world tranquillity 
or mid-Victorian futility according to their position 
in the home. Outside the home, in that wild 
state from which civilization has dragged them, 
they may have stood for dare-devil courage or 
constancy or devotion ; I cannot tell. I may 
only speak of them now as I find them, which is 
in the garden or in the drawing-room. In their 
lily-leaved pool, sunk deep in the old flagged 
terrace, upon whose borders the blackbird whistles 
his early - morning song, they remind me of 
sundials and lavender and old delightful things. 
But in their cheap glass bowl upon the three- 
legged table, above which the cloth-covered 
canary maintains a stolid silence, they remind 
me of antimacassars and horsehair sofas and all 
that is depressing. It is hard that the goldfish 
himself should have so little choice in the matter. 
C 33 

Not That It Matters 

Goldfish look pretty in the terrace pond, yet I 
doubt if it was the need for prettiness which 
brought them there. Rather the need for some 
thing to throw things to. . No one of the initiate 
can sit in front of Nature's most wonderful effect, 
the sea, without wishing to throw stones into it, 
the physical pleasure of the effort and the aesthetic 
pleasure of the splash combining to produce per- 
fect contentment. So by the margin of the pool 
the same desires stir within one, and because 
ants' eggs do not splash, and look untidy on the 
surface of the water, there must be a gleam ot 
gold and silver to put the crown upon one's 

Perhaps when you have been feeding the gold- 
fish you have not thought of it like that. But at 
least you must have wondered why, of all diets, 
they should prefer ants' eggs. Ants' eggs are, I 
should say, the very last thing which one would 
take to without argument. It must be an 
acquired taste, and, this being so, one naturally 
asks oneself how goldfish came to acquire it. 

I suppose (but I am lamentably ignorant on 
these as on all other matters) that there was a 
time when goldfish lived a wild free life of their 
own. They roamed the sea or the river, or 
whatever it was, fighting for existence, and 


Nature showed them, as she always does, the 
food which suited them. Now I have often 
come across ants' nests in my travels, but never 
when swimming. In seas and rivers, pools and 
lakes, I have wandered, but Nature has never 
put ants' eggs in my way. No doubt it would 
be only right the goldfish has a keener eye 
than I have for these things, but if they had 
been there, should I have missed them so com- 
pletely ? I think not, for if they had been there, 
they must have been there in great quantities. 
I can imagine a goldfish slowly acquiring the 
taste for them through the centuries, but only if 
other food were denied to him, only if, wherever 
he went, ants' eggs, ants' eggs, ants' eggs drifted 
down the stream to him. 

Yet, since it would seem that he has acquired 
the taste, it can only be that the taste has come 
to him with captivity has been forced upon him, 
I should have said. The old wild goldfish (this 
is my theory) was a more terrible beast than we 
think. Given his proper diet, he could not have 
been kept within the limits of the terrace pool. 
He would have been unsuited to domestic life ; 
he would have dragged in the shrieking child as 
she leant to feed him. As the result of many 
experiments ants' eggs were given him to keep 

Not That It Matters 

him thin (you can see for yourself what a blood- 
less diet it is), ants' eggs were given him to 
quell his spirit ; and just as a man, if he has 
sufficient colds, can get up a passion even for 
ammoniated quinine, so the goldfish has grown in 
captivity to welcome the once-hated omelette. 

Let us consider now the case of the goldfish in 
the house. His diet is the same, but how different 
his surroundings ! If his bowl is placed on a 
table in the middle of the floor, he has but to 
flash his tail once and he has been all round the 
drawing-room. The drawing-room may not seem 
much to you, but to him this impressionist picture 
through the curved glass must be amazing. Let 
not the outdoor goldfish boast of his freedom. 
What does he, in his little world of water-lily 
roots, know of the vista upon vista which opens 
to his more happy brother as he passes jauntily 
from china dog to ottoman and from ottoman to 
Henry's father? Ah, here is life! It may be 
that in the course of years he will get used to it, 
even bored by it ; indeed, for that reason I 
always advocate giving him a glance at the 
dining-room or the bedrooms on Wednesdays and 
Saturdays ; but his first day in the bowl must be 
the opening of an undreamt-of heaven to him. 

Again, what an adventurous life is his. At 


any moment a cat may climb up and fetch him 
out, a child may upset him, grown-ups may 
neglect to feed him or to change his water. The 
temptation to take him up and massage him 
must be irresistible to outsiders. All these 
dangers the goldfish in the pond avoids ; he 
lives a sheltered and unexciting life, and when 
he wants to die he dies unnoticed, unregretted, 
but for his brother the tears and the solemn 

Yes; now that I have thought it out, I can 
see that I was wrong in calling the indoor gold- 
fish a symbol of mid- Victorian futility. An 
article of this sort is no good if it does not 
teach the writer something as well as his 
readers. I recognize him now as the symbol 
of enterprise and endurance, of restlessness and 
Post-Impressionism. He is not mid- Victorian, he 
is Fifth Georgian. 

Which is all I want to say about goldfish. 


Saturday to Monday o o *> 

THE happy man would have happy faces 
round him ; a sad face is a reproach to him 
for his happiness. So when I escape by the 2.10 
on Saturday I distribute largesse with a liberal 
hand. The cabman, feeling that an effort is 
required of him, mentions that I am the first 
gentleman he has met that day ; he penetrates 
my mufti and calls me captain, leaving it open 
whether he regards me as a Salvation Army 
captain or the captain of a barge. The porters 
hasten to the door of my cab ; there is a little 
struggle between them as to who shall have the 
honour of waiting upon me. . . . 

Inside the station things go on as happily. 
The booking-office clerk gives me a pleasant 
smile ; he seems to approve of the station I am 
taking. " Some do go to Brighton," he implies, 

" but for a gentleman like you " He pauses 

to point out that with this ticket I can come 
back on the Tuesday if I like (as, between 


Saturday to Monday 

ourselves, I hope to do). In exchange for his 
courtesies I push him my paper through the pigeon , 
hole. A dirty little boy thrust it into my cab ; I 
didn't want it, but as we are all being happy to- 
day he had his penny. 

I follow my porter to the platform. " On 
the left/' says the ticket collector. He has 
said it mechanically to a hundred persons, 
but he becomes human and kindly as he says 
it to me. I feel that he really wishes 
me to get into the right train, to have a 
pleasant journey down, to be welcomed heartily 
by my friends when I arrive. It is not as 
to one of a mob but to an individual that he 

The porter has found me an empty carriage. 
He is full of ideas for my comfort; he tells me 
which way the train will start, where we stop, 
and when we may be expected to arrive. Am I 
sure I wouldn't like my bag in the van ? Can he 
get me any papers ? No ; no, thanks. I don't 
want to read. I give him sixpence, and there is 
another one of us happy. 

Presently the guard. He also seems pleased 
that I have selected this one particular station 
from among so many. Pleased, but not aston- 
ished ; he expected it of me. It is a very good 

Not That It Matters 

run down in his train, and he shouldn't be sur- 
prised if we had a fine week- end. . . . 

I stand at the door of my carriage feeling very 
happy. It is good to get out of London. Come 
to think of it, we are all getting out of London, 
and none of us is going to do any work to-morrow. 
How jolly ! Oh, but what about my porter ? 
Bother! I wish now I'd given him more than 
sixpence. Still, he may have a sweetheart and 
be happy that way. 

We are off. I have nothing to read, but then 
I want to think. It is the ideal place in which 
to think, a railway carriage ; the ideal place in 
which to be happy. I wonder if I shall be in 
good form this week-end at cricket and tennis, 
and croquet and billiards, and all the other jolly 
games I mean to play. Look at those children 
trying to play cricket in that dirty backyard. 
Poor little beggars ! Fancy living in one of those 
horrible squalid houses. But you cannot spoil to- 
day for me, little backyards. On Tuesday per- 
haps, when I am coming again to the ugly town, 
your misery will make me miserable ; I shall ask 
myself hopelessly what it all means ; but just 
now I am too happy for pity. After all, why 
should I assume that you envy me, you two 
children swinging on a gate and waving to me ? 

Saturday to Monday 

You are happy, aren't you ? Of course ; we are 
all happy to-day. See, I am waving back to you. 

My eyes wander round the carriage and rest 
on my bag. Have I put everything in ? Of 
course I have. Then why this uneasy feeling 
that I have left something very important out ? 
Well, I can soon settle the question. Let's 
start with to-night. Evening clothes they're in, 
I know. Shirts, collars . . . 

I go through the whole programme for the 
week-end, allotting myself in my mind suitable 
clothes for each occasion. Yes ; I seem to have 
brought everything that I can possibly want. But 
what a very jolly programme I am drawing up 
for myself! Will it really be as delightful as 
that ? Well, it was last time, and the time before ; 
that is why I am so happy. 

The train draws up at its only halt in the glow 
of a September mid-afternoon. There is a little 
pleasant bustle ; nice people get out and nice 
people meet them ; everybody seems very cheery 
and contented. Then we are off again . . . and 
now the next station is mine. 

We are there. A porter takes my things with 
a kindly smile and a " Nice day." I see Brant 
outside with the wagonette, not the trap ; then 
I am not the only guest coming by this train. 

Not That It Matters 

Who are the others, I wonder. Anybody I 
know? . . . Why, yes, it's Bob and Mrs. Bob, 
and hallo ! Cynthia ! And isn't that old 
Anderby? How splendid! I must get that 
shilling back from Bob that I lost to him at 
billiards last time. And if Cynthia really thinks 
that she can play croquet . . . 

We greet each other happily and climb into 
the wagonette. Never has the country looked so 
lovely. " No ; no rain at all," says Brant, " and 
the glass is going up." The porter puts our 
luggage in the cart and comes round with a smile. 
It is a rotten life being a porter, and I do so 
want everybody to enjoy this afternoon. Besides, 
I haven't any coppers. 

I slip half a crown into his palm. Now we are 
all very, very happy. 


The Pond *s* *> ^> *o <o 

MY friend Aldenham's pond stands at a 
convenient distance from the house, and 
is reached by a well-drained gravel path ; so that 
in any weather one may walk, alone or in company, 
dry shod to its brink, and estimate roughly how 
many inches of rain have fallen in the night. The 
ribald call it the hippopotamus pond, tracing a 
resemblance between it and the bath of the 
hippopotamus at the Zoo, beneath the waters of 
which, if you particularly desire to point the 
hippopotamus out to somebody, he always lies 
hidden. To the rest of us it is known simply as 
" the pond " a designation which ignores the 
existence of several neighbouring ponds, the gifts 
of nature, and gives the whole credit to the 
handiwork of man. For " the pond " is just a 
small artificial affair of cement, entirely un- 

There are seven steps to the bottom of the 
pond, and each step is 10 in. high. Thus the 

Not That It Matters 

steps help to make the pond a convenient rain- 
gauge ; for obviously when only three steps are 
left uncovered, as was the case last Monday, you 
know that there have been 40 in. of rain since 
last month, when the pond began to fill. To 
strangers this may seem surprising, and it is 
only fair to tell them the great secret, which is 
that much of the surrounding land drains secretly 
into the pond too. This seems to me to give a 
much fairer indication of the rain that has fallen 
than do the official figures in the newspapers. 
For when your whole day's cricket has been 
spoilt, it is perfectly absurd to be told that '026 
of an inch of rain has done the damage; the soul 
yearns for something more startling than that 
The record of the pond, that there has been 
another 5 in., soothes us, where the record of the 
ordinary pedantic rain-gauge would leave us 
infuriated. It speaks much for my friend 
Aldenham's breadth of view that he understood 
this, and planned the pond accordingly. 

A most necessary thing in a country house is 
that there should be a recognized meeting-place, 
where the people who have been writing a few 
letters after breakfast may, when they have 
finished, meet those who have no intention of 
writing any, and arrange plans with them for the 

The Pond 

morning. I am one of those who cannot write 
letters in another man's house, and when my pipe 
is well alight I say to Miss Robinson or whoever 
it may be "Let's go and look at the pond." 
" Right oh," she says willingly enough, having 
spent the last quarter of an hour with The Times 
Financial Supplement, all of the paper that is left 
to the women in the first rush for the cricket 
news. We wander down to the pond together, 
and perhaps find Brown and Miss Smith there. 
" A lot of rain in the night," says Brown. " It 
was only just over the third step after lunch 
yesterday." We have a little argument about it, 
Miss Robinson being convinced that she stood on 
the second step after breakfast, and Miss Smith 
repeating that it looks exactly the same to her 
this morning. By and by two or three others 
stroll up, and we all make measurements together. 
The general opinion is that there has been a lot 
of rain in the night, and that .43 in. in three 
weeks must be a record. But, anyhow, it is 
fairly fine now, and what about a little lawn 

tennis? Or golf? Or croquet? Or ? And 

so the arrangements for the morning are 

And they can be made more readily out of 
doors ; for supposing it is fine the fresh air 

Not That It Matters 

calls you to be doing something, and the sight 
of the newly marked tennis lawn fills you with 
thoughts of revenge for your accidental defeat 
the evening before. But indoors it is so easy to 
drop into a sofa after breakfast, and, once there 
with all the papers, to be disinclined to leave it 
till lunch-time. A man or woman as lazy as this 
must not be rushed. Say to such a one, " Come 
and play," and the invitation will be declined. 
Say, "Come and look at the pond," and the 
worst sluggard will not refuse such gentle 
exercise. And once he is out he is out. 

All this for those delightful summer days when 
there are fine intervals ; but consider the advan- 
tages of the pond when the rain streams down 
in torrents from morning till night. How tired 
we get of being indoors on these days, even with 
the best of books, the pleasantest of companions, 
the easiest of billiard tables. Yet if our hostess 
were to see us marching out with an umbrella, 
how odd she would think us. " Where are you 
off to ? " she would ask, and we could only answer 
lamely, "Er I was just going to er walk 
about a bit." But now we tell her brightly, 
" I'm going to see the pond. It must be nearly 
full. Won't you come too ? " And with any 
luck she comes. 


The Pond 

And you know, it even reconciles us a little to 
these streaming days to reflect that it all goes to 
fill the pond. For there is ever before our minds 
that great moment in the future when the pond 
is at last full. What will happen then? 
Aldenham may know, but we his guests do not. 
Some think there will be merely a flood over the 
surrounding paths and the kitchen garden, but 
for myself I believe that we are promised some- 
thing much bigger than that. A man with such 
a broad and friendly outlook towards rain-gauges 
will be sure to arrange something striking when 
the great moment arrives. Some sort of fete 
will help to celebrate it, I have no doubt ; with 
an open-air play, tank drama, or what not. 
At any rate we have every hope that he will 
empty the pond as speedily as possible so that we 
may watch it fill again. 

I must say that he has been a little lucky in 
his choice of a year for inaugurating the pond. 
But, all the same, there are now 45 in. of rain in 
it, 45 in. of rain have fallen in the last three 
weeks, and I think that something ought to be 
done about it. 


A Seventeenth- Century Story o o 

r I ^HERE is a story in every name in that first 
J. column of The Times Births, Marriages, 
and Deaths down which we glance each morn- 
ing, but, unless the name is known to us, we 
do not bother about the stories of other people. 
They are those not very interesting people, our 
contemporaries. But in a country churchyard 
a name on an old tombstone will set us wonder- 
ing a little. What sort of life came to an end 
there a hundred years ago ? 

In the parish register we shall find the whole 
history of them ; when they were bom, when 
they were married, how many children they had, 
when they died a skeleton of their lives which 
we can clothe with our fancies and make living 
again. Simple lives, we make them, in that 
pleasant countryside ; " Man comes and tills the 
field and lies beneath " ; that is all. Simple 
work, simple pleasures, and a simple death. 

Of course we are wrong. There were passions 

A Seventeenth-Century Story 

and pains in those lives ; tragedies perhaps. The 
tombstones and the registers say nothing of 
them ; or, if they say it, it is in a cypher to which 
we have not the key. Yet sometimes the key 
is almost in our hands. Here is a story from the 
register of a village church four entries only, 
but they hide a tragedy which with a little 
imagination we can almost piece together for 

The first entry is a marriage. John Meadowes 
of Littlehaw Manor, bachelor, took Mary Field 
to wife (both of this parish) on 7th November 1681. 

There were no children of the marriage. 
Indeed, it only lasted a year. A year later, 
on 12th November 1682, John died and was 

Poor Mary Meadowes was now alone at the 
Manor. We picture her sitting there in her 
loneliness, broken-hearted, refusing to be com- 
forted. . . . 

Until we come to the third entry. John has 
only been in his grave a month, but here is the 
third entry, telling us that on 12th December 
1682, Robert Cliff, bachelor, was married to Mary 
Meadowes, widow. It spoils our picture of 
her. . . . 

And then the fourth entry. It is the fourth 
D 49 

Not That It Matters 

entry which reveals the tragedy, which makes 
us wonder what is the story hidden away in the 
parish register of Littlehaw the mystery of 
Littlehaw Manor. For here is another death, 
the death of Mary Cliff, and Mary Cliff died on 
... 13th December 1682. 

And she was buried in unconsecrated ground. 

For Mary Cliff (we must suppose) had killed 
herself. She had killed herself on the day after 
her marriage to her second husband. 

Well, what is the story? We shall have to 
make it up for ourselves. Here is my rendering 
of it. I have no means of finding out if it is the 
correct one, but it seems to fit itself within the 
facts as we know them. 

Mary Field was the daughter of well-to-do 
parents, an only child, and the most desirable 
bride, from the worldly point of view, in the 
village. No wonder, then, that her parents' 
choice of a husband for her fell upon the most 
desirable bridegroom of the village John 
Meadowes. The Fields' land adjoined Little- 
haw Manor ; one day the child of John and 
Mary would own it all. Let a marriage, then, 
be arranged. 

But Mary loved Robert Cliff whole-heartedly 
Robert, a man of no standing at all. A ridi- 

A Seventeenth-Century Story 

culous notion, said her parents, but the silly girl 
would grow out of it. She was taken by a 
handsome face. Once she was safely wedded 
to John, she would forget her foolishness. John 
might not be handsome, but he was a solid, 
steady fellow ; which was more much more, as 
it turned out than could be said for Robert. 

So John and Mary married. But she still 
loved Robert. ... 

Did she kill her husband? Did she and 
Robert kill him together? Or did she only 
hasten his death by her neglect of him in some 
illness? Did she dare him to ride some devil 
of a horse which she knew he could not master ; 
did she taunt him into some foolhardy feat; or 
did she deliberately kill him with or without 
her lover's aid ? I cannot guess, but of this I 
am certain. His death was on her conscience. 
Directly or indirectly she was responsible for it 
or, at any rate, felt herself responsible for it. 
But she would not think of it too closely ; she 
had room for only one thought in her mind. She 
was mistress of Littlehaw Manor now, and free to 
marry whom she wished. Free, at last, to marry 
Robert. Whatever had been done had been 
worth doing for that. 

So she married him. And then so I read 

Not That It Matters 

the story she discovered the truth. Robert had 
never loved her. He had wanted to marry the 
rich Miss Field, that was all. Still more, he had 
wanted to marry the rich Mrs. Meadowes. He 
was quite callous about it. She might as well 
know the truth now as later. It would save 
trouble in the future, if she knew. 

So Mary killed herself. She had murdered 
John for nothing. Whatever her responsibility 
for John's death, in the bitterness of that dis- 
covery she would call it murder. She had a 
murder on her conscience for love's sake and 
there was no love. What else to do but follow 
John? . . . 

Is that the story ? I wonder. 

Our Learned Friends^ o <> <> 

I do not know why the Bar has always seemed 
the most respectable of the professions, a 
profession which the hero of almost any novel 
could adopt without losing caste. But so it is. 
A schoolmaster can be referred to contemptu- 
ously as an usher ; a doctor is regarded humor- 
ously as a licensed murderer ; a solicitor is always 
retiring to gaol for making away with trust 
funds, and, in any case, is merely an attorney ; 
while a civil servant sleeps from ten to four 
every day, and is only waked up at sixty in order 
to be given a pension. But there is no humorous 
comment to be made upon the barrister unless 
it is to call him "my learned friend." He has 
much more right than the actor to claim to be 
a member of the profession. I don't know why. 
Perhaps it is because he walks about the Temple 
in a top-hat. 

So many of one's acquaintances at some time 
or other have " eaten dinners " that one hai-dly 

Not That It Matters 

dares to say anything against the profession. 
Besides, one never knows when one may not 
want to be defended. However, I shall take the 
risk, and put the barrister in the dock. " Gentle- 
men of the jury, observe this well-dressed gentle- 
man before you. What shall we say about him ? " 
Let us begin by asking ourselves what we 
expect from a profession. In the first place, 
certainly, we expect a living, but I think we 
want something more than that. If we were 
offered a thousand a year to walk from Charing 
Cross to Barnet every day, reasons of poverty 
might compel us to accept the offer, but we 
should hardly be proud of our new profession. 
We should prefer to earn a thousand a year by 
doing some more useful work. Indeed, to a man 
of any fine feeling the profession of Barnet- 
walking would only be tolerable if he could per- 
suade himself that by his exertions he was help- 
ing to revive the neglected art of pedestrianism, 
or to make more popular the neglected beauties 
of Barnet ; if he could hope that, after his three- 
hundredth journey, inquisitive people would 
begin to follow him, wondering what he was 
after, and so come suddenly upon the old Nor- 
man church at the cross-roads, or, if they missed 
this, at any rate upon a much better appetite 

Our Learned Friends 

for their dinner. That is to say, he would have to 
persuade himself that he was walking, not only 
for himself, but also for the community. 

It seems to me, then, that a profession is a 
noble or an ignoble one, according as it offers or 
denies to him who practises it the opportunity 
of working for some other end than his own 
advancement. A doctor collects fees from his 
patients, but he is aiming at something more 
than pounds, shillings, and pence ; he is out to 
put an end to suffering. A schoolmaster earns 
a living by teaching, but he does not feel that 
he is fighting only for himself; he is a crusader 
on behalf of education. The artist, whatever 
his medium, is giving a message to the world, 
expressing the truth as he sees it; for his own 
profit, perhaps, but not for that alone. All these 
and a thousand other ways of living have some- 
thing of nobility in them. We enter them full 
of high resolves. We tell ourselves that we will 
follow the light as it has been revealed to us; 
that our ideals shall never be lowered ; that we 
will refuse to sacrifice our principles to our 
interests. We fail, of course. The painter finds 
that " Mother's Darling " brings in the stuff, and 
he turns out Mother's Darlings mechanically. 
The doctor neglects research and cultivates in- 

Not That It Matters 

stead a bedside manner. The schoolmaster drops 
all his theories of education and conforms hastily 
to those of his employers. We fail, but it is not 
because the profession is an ignoble one ; we 
had our chances. Indeed, the light is still there 
for those who look. It beckons to us. 

Now what of the Bar ? Is the barrister after 
anything other than his own advancement ? He 
follows what gleam? What are his ideals? 
Never mind whether he fails more often or less 
often than others to attain them ; I am not 
bothering about that. I only want to know what 
it is that he is after. In the quiet hours when we 
are alone with ourselves and there is nobody to tell 
us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes 
upon a weak moment in which we wonder, not 
how much money we are earning, nor how famous 
we are becoming, but what good we are doing. 
If a barrister ever has such a moment, what is 
his consolation ? It can only be that he is help- 
ing Justice to be administered. If he is to be 
proud of his profession, and in that lonely mo- 
ment tolerant of himself, he must feel that he 
is taking a noble part in the vindication of 
legal right, the punishment of legal wrong. 
But he must do more than this. Just as the 
doctor, with increased knowledge and experi- 

Our Learned Friends 

ence, becomes a better fighter against disease, 
advancing himself, no doubt, but advancing also 
medical science ; just as the schoolmaster, having 
learnt new and better ways of teaching, can now 
give a better education to his boys, increasing 
thereby the sum of knowledge ; so the barrister 
must be able to tell himself that the more expert 
he becomes as an advocate, the better will he 
be able to help in the administration of this 
Justice which is his ideal. 

Can he tell himself this ? I do not see how he 
can. His increased expertness will be of increased 
service to himself, of increased service to his 
clients, but no ideal will be the better served 
by reason of it. Let us take a case Smith v. 
Jones. Counsel is briefed for Smith. 'After 
examining the case he tells himself in effect 
this : " As far as I can see, the Law is all on the 
other side. Luckily, however, sentiment is on 
our side. Given an impressionable jury, there's 
just a chance that we might pull it off. It's 
worth trying." He tries, and if he is sufficiently 
expert he pulls it off. A triumph for himself, 
but what has happened to the ideal? Did he 
even think, " Of course I'm bound to do the best 
for my client, but he's in the wrong, and I hope 
we lose ? " I imagine not. The whole teach- 

Not That It Matters 

ing of the Bar is that he must not bother about 
justice, but only about his own victory. What 
ultimately, then, is he after? What does the 
Bar offer its devotees beyond material success ? 

I asked just now what were a barrister's ideals. 
Suppose we ask instead, What is the ideal 
barrister ? If one spoke loosely of an ideal doctor, 
one would not necessarily mean a titled gentle- 
man in Harley Street. An ideal schoolmaster 
is not synonymous with the Headmaster of Eton 
or the owner of the most profitable preparatory 
school. But can there be an ideal barrister other 
than a successful barrister ? The eager young 
writer, just beginning ,a literary career, might 
fix his eyes upon Francis Thompson rather than 
upon Sir Hall Caine ; the eager young clergy- 
man might dream dreams over the Life of Father 
Damien more often than over the Life of the 
Archbishop of Canterbury ; but to what star can 
the eager young barrister hitch his wagon, save 
to the star of material success ? If he does not 
see himself as Sir Edward Carson, it is only be- 
cause he thinks that perhaps after all Sir John 
Simon's manner is the more effective. 

There may be other answers to the questions 
I have asked than the answers I have given, but 
it is no answer to ask me how the law can be 

Our Learned Friends 

administered without barristers. I do not know ; 
nor do I know how the roads can be swept 
without getting somebody to sweep them. But 
that would not disqualify me from saying that 
road-sweeping was an unattractive profession. 
So also I am entitled to my opinion about the 
Bar, which is this. That because it offers material 
victories only and never spiritual ones, that be- 
cause there can be no standard by which its 
disciples are judged save the earthly standard, 
that because there is no place within its ranks 
for the altruist or the idealist for these reasons 
the Bar is not one of the noble professions. 


A Word for Autumn o *> *> 

LAST night the waiter put the celery on 
with the cheese, and I knew that summer 
was indeed dead. Other signs of autumn there 
may be the reddening leaf, the chill in the 
early-morning air, the misty evenings but none 
of these comes home to me so truly. There may 
be cool mornings in July ; in a year of drought 
the leaves may change before their tune ; it is 
only with the first celery that summer is over. 

I knew all along that it would not last. Even 
in April I was saying that winter would soon be 
here. Yet somehow it had begun to seem 
possible lately that a miracle might happen, that 
summer might drift on and on through the 
months a final upheaval to crown a wonderful 
year. The celery settled that. Last night with 
the celery autumn came into its own. 

There is a crispness about celery that is of the 
essence of October. It is as fresh and clean as a 
rainy day after a spell of heat. It crackles 

A Word for Autumn 

pleasantly in the mouth. Moreover it is 
excellent, I am told, for the complexion. One 
is always hearing of things which are good for 
the complexion, but there is no doubt that celery 
stands high on the list. After the burns and 
freckles of summer one is in need of something. 
How good that celery should be there -at one's 

A week ago (" A little more cheese, waiter ") 
a week ago I grieved for the dying summer. 
I wondered how I could possibly bear the waiting 
the eight long months till May. In vain to 
comfort myself with the thought that I could get 
through more work in the winter undistracted by 
thoughts of cricket grounds and country houses. 
In vain, equally, to tell myself that I could stay 
in bed later in the mornings. Even the thought 
of after-breakfast pipes in front of the fire left me 
cold. But now, suddenly, I am reconciled to 
autumn. I see quite clearly that all good things 
must come to an end. The summer has been 
splendid, but it has lasted long enough. This 
morning I welcomed the chill in the air ; this 
morning I viewed the falling leaves with cheerful- 
ness ; and this morning I said to myself, " Why, 
of course, I'll have celery for lunch."" (" More 
bread, waiter.") 


Not That It Matters 

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," 
said Keats, not actually picking out celery in so 
many words, but plainly including it in the general 
blessings of the autumn. Yet what an oppor- 
tunity he missed by not concentrating on that 
precious root. Apples, grapes, nuts, and 
vegetable marrows he mentions specially and 
how poor a selection! For apples and grapes 
are not typical of any month, so ubiquitous are 
they, vegetable marrows are vegetables pour tire 
and have no place in any'serious consideration of 
the seasons, while as for nuts, have we not a 
national song which asserts distinctly, " Here we 
go gathering nuts in May " ? Season of mists 
and mellow celery, then let it be. A pat of 
butter underneath the bough, a wedge of cheese, 
a loaf of bread and Thou. 

How delicate are the tender shoots unfolded 
layer by layer. Of what a whiteness is the last 
baby one of all, of what a sweetness his flavour. 
It is well that this should be the last rite of the 
meal -Jinis coronal opus so that we may go 
straight on to the business of the pipe. Celery 
demands a pipe rather than a cigar, and it can be 
eaten better in an inn or a London tavern than in 
the home. Yes, and it should be eaten alone, 
for it is the only food which one really wants to 

A Word for Autumn 

hear oneself eat. Besides, in company one may 
have to consider the wants of others. Celery is 
not a thing to share with any man. Alone in 
your country inn you may call for the celery ; 
but if you are wise you will see that no other 
traveller wanders into the room. Take warning 
from one who has learnt a lesson. One day I 
lunched alone at an inn, finishing with cheese 
and celery. Another traveller came in and 
lunched too. We did not speak I was busy 
with my celery. From the other end of the 
table he reached across for the cheese. That 
was all right ; it was the public cheese. But he 
also reached across for the celery my private 
celery for which I owed. Foolishly you know 
how one does I had left the sweetest and 
crispest shoots till the last, tantalizing myself 
pleasantly with the thought of them. Horror ! 
to see them snatched from me by a stranger. 
He realized later what he had done and apolo- 
gized, but of what good is an apology in such 
circumstances ? Yet at least the tragedy was not 
without its value. Now one remembers to lock 
the door. 

Yes, I can face the winter with calm. I 
suppose I had forgotten what it was really like. 
I had been thinking of the winter as a horrid. 


Not That It Matters 

wet, dreary time fit only for professional football. 
Now I can see other things crisp and sparkling 
days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires. Good 
work shall be done this winter. Life shall be 
lived well. The end of the summer is not the 
end of the world. Here's to October and, 
waiter, some more celery. 


A Christmas Numbers o o o 

THE common joke against the* Christmas 
number is that it is planned in July and 
made up in September. This enables it to be 
published in the middle of November and circu- 
lated in New Zealand by Christmas. If it were 
published in England at Christmas, New Zealand 
wouldn't get it till February. Apparently it is 
more important that the colonies should have it 
punctually than that we should. 

Anyway, whenever it is made up, all journalists 
hate the Christmas number. But they only hate 
it for one reason this being that the ordinary 
weekly number has to be made up at the same 
time. As a journalist I should like to devote the 
autumn exclusively to the Christmas number, and 
as a member of the public I should adore it when 
it came out. Not having been asked to produce 
such a number on my own I can amuse myself 
here by sketching out a plan for it. I follow the 
fine old tradition. 

E 65 

Not That It Matters 

First let us get the stories settled. Story No. 1 
deals with the escaped convict. The heroine is 
driving back from the country-house ball, where 
she has had two or three proposals, when suddenly, 
in the most lonely part of the snow-swept moor, 
a figure springs out of the ditch and covers the 
coachman with a pistol. Alarms and confusions. 
" Oh, sir," says the heroine, " spare my aunt and 
I will give you all my jewels." The convict, for 
such it is, staggers back. " Lucy ! " he cries. 
" Harold ! " she gasps. The aunt says nothing, 
for she has swooned. At this point the story 
stops to explain how Harold came to be in knicker- 
bockers. He had either been falsely accused or 
else he had been a solicitor. Anyhow, he had 
by this time more than paid for his folly, and 
Lupy still loved him. "Get in," she says, and 
drives him home. Next day he leaves for New 
Zealand in an ordinary lounge suit. Need I say 
that Lucy joins him later? No; that shall be 
left for your imagination. The End. 

So much for the first story. The second is an 
"i'-faith-and-stap-me " story of the good old days. 
It is not seasonable, for most of the action takes 
place in my lord's garden amid the scent of roses ; 
but it brings back to us the old romantic days 
when fighting and swearing were more picturesque 

A Christmas Number 

than they are now, and when women loved and 
worked samplers. This sort of story can be read 
best in front of the Christmas log ; it is of the 
past, and comes naturally into a Christmas number. 
I shall not describe its plot, for that is unim- 
portant ; it is the " stap me's " and the "la, sirs," 
which matter. But I may say that she marries 
him all right in the end, and he goes off happily 
to the wars. 

We want another story. What shall this one 
be about? It might be about the amateur 
burglar, or the little child who reconciled old 
Sir John to his daughter's marriage, or the ghost 
at Enderby Grange, or the millionaire's Christmas 
dinner, or the accident to the Scotch express. 
Personally, I do not care for any of these ; my 
vote goes for the desert-island story. Proud 
Lady Julia has fallen off the deck of the liner, 
and Ronald, refused by her that morning, dives 
off the hurricane deck or the bowsprit or wher- 
ever he happens to be and seizes her as she is 
sinking for the third time. It is a foggy night 
and their absence is unnoticed. Dawn finds 
them together on a little coral reef. They are 
in no danger, for several liners are due to pass 
in a day or two and Ronald's pockets are full of 
biscuits and chocolate, but it is awkwaixl for Lady 

Not That It Matters 

Julia, who had hoped that they would never meet 
again. So they sit on the beach back to back 
(drawn by Dana Gibson) and throw sarcastic 
remarks over their shoulders at each other. In 
the end he tames her proud spirit I think by 
hiding the turtles' eggs from her and the next 
liner but one takes the happy couple back to 

But it is time we had some poetry. I propose 
to give you one serious poem about robins, and 
one double-page humorous piece, well illustrated 
in colours. I think the humorous verses must 
deal with hunting. Hunting does not lend itself 
to humour, for there are only two hunting jokes 
the joke of the horse which came down at the 
brook and the joke of the Cockney who overrode 
hounds ; but there are traditions to keep up, and 
the artist always loves it. So far we have not 
considered the artist sufficiently. Let us give 
him four full pages. One of pretty girls hanging 
up mistletoe, one of the squire and his family 
going to church in the snow, one of a broken- 
down coach with highwaymen coming over the 
hill, and one of the postman bringing loads and 
loads of parcels. You have all Christmas in those 
four pictures. But there is room for another 
page let it be a coloured page of half a dozen 

A Christmas Number 

sketches, the period and the lettering very early 
English. "Ye Baron de Marchebankes calleth 
for hys varlet." "Ye varlet cometh righte 

hastilie " You know the delightful kind of 


I confess that this is the sort of Christmas 
number which I love. You may say that you have 
seen it all before ; I say that that is why I love 
it. The best of Christmas is that it reminds us 
of other Christmases ; it should be the boast of 
Christmas numbers that they remind us of other 
Christmas numbers. 

But though I doubt if I shall get quite what I 
want from any one number this year, yet there 
will surely be enough in all the numbers to 
bring Christmas very pleasantly before the eyes. 
In a dull November one likes to be reminded 
that Christmas is coming. It is perhaps as well 
that the demands of the colonies give us our 
Christmas numbers so early. At the same time 
it is difficult to see why New Zealand wants a 
Christmas number at all. As I glance above at 
the plan of my model paper I feel more than ever 
how adorable it would be but not, oh not with 
the thermometer at a hundred in the shade. 


No Flowers by Request o o o 

IF a statement is untrue, it is not the more 
respectable because it has been said in Latin. 
We owe the war, directly, no doubt, to the 
Kaiser, but indirectly to the Roman idiot who 
said, " Si vis pacem, para helium." Having mis- 
laid my Dictionary of Quotations I cannot give 
you his name, but I have my money on him as 
the greatest murderer in history. 

Yet there have always been people who 
would quote this classical lie as if it were at 
least as authoritative as anything said in the 
Sermon on the Mount. It was said a long 
time ago, and in a strange language that was 
enough for them. In the same way they will 
say, " De mortuis nil nisi bonum." But I warn 
them solemnly that it will take a good deal 
more than this to stop me from saying what 
I want to say about the recently expired month 
of February. 

I have waited purposely until February was 

No Flowers by Request 

dead. Cynics may say that this was only 
wisdom, in that a damnatory notice from me 
might have inspired that unhappy month to an 
unusually brilliant run, out of sheer wilfulness. 
I prefer to think that it was good manners 
which forbade me to be disrespectful to her 
very face. It is bad manners to speak the 
truth to the living, but February is dead. De 
mortuis nil nisi veritas. 

The truth about poor February is that she 
is the worst month of the year. But let us be 
fair to her. She has never had a chance. We 
cannot say to her, " Look upon this picture and 
on this. This you might have been ; this you 
are." There is no "might have been" for her, 
no ideal February. The perfect June we can 
imagine for ourselves. Personally I do not 
mind how hot it be, but there must be plenty 
of strawberries. The perfect April ah, one dare 
not think of the perfect April. That can only 
happen in the next world. Yet April may 
always be striving for it, though she never 
reach it. But the perfect February what is 
it ? I know not. Let us pity February, then, 
even while we blame her. 

For February comes just when we are sick 
of winter, and therefore she may not be wintry. 

Not That It Matter^ 

Wishing to do her best, she ventures her spring 
costume, crocus and primrose and daffodil days ; 
days when the first faint perfume of mint is 
blown down the breezes, and one begins to 
wonder how the lambs are shaping. Is that 
the ideal February ? Ah no ! For we cannot 
be deceived. We know that spring is not 
here ; that March is to come with its frosts 
and perchance its snows, a worse March for 
the milder February, a plunge back into the 
winter which poor February tried to natter us 
was over. 

Such a February is a murderer an acces- 
sory to the murders of March. She lays the 
ground-bait for the victims. Out pop the 
stupid little flowers, eager to be deceived (one 
could forgive the annuals, but the perennials 
ought to know better by now), and down comes 
March, a roaring lion, to gobble them up. 

And how much lost fruit do we not owe to 
February! One feels a layman like myself 
feels that it should be enough to have a straw- 
berry-bed, a peach-tree, a fig-tree. If these are 
not enough, then the addition of a gardener 
should make the thing a certainty. Yet how 
often will not a gardener refer one back to 
February as the real culprit. The tree blos- 

No Flowers by Request 

somed too early ; the late frosts killed it ; in 
the annoyance of the moment one may reproach 
the gardener for allowing it to blossom so 
prematurely, but one cannot absolve February 
of all blame. 

It is no good, then, for February to try to 
be spring ; no hope for her to please us by 
prolonging winter. What is left to her? She 
cannot even give us the pleasure of the hair- 
shirt. Did April follow her, she could make 
the joys of that wonderful month even keener 
for us by the contrast, but she is followed by 
March. What can one do with March ? One 
does not wear a hair-shirt merely to enjoy the 
pleasure of following it by one slightly less 

Well, we may agree that February is no 
good% "Oh, to be out of England now that 
February's here," is what Browning should 
have said. One has no use for her in this 
country. Pope Gregory, or whoever it was 
that arranged the calendar, must have had 
influential relations in England who urged on 
him the need for making February the shortest 
month of the year. Let us be grateful to His 
Holiness that he was so persuaded. He was 
a little obstinate about Leap Year ; a more 

Not That It Matters 

imaginative pontiff would have given the extra 
day to April ; but he was amenable enough 
for a man who only had his relations' word 
for it. Every first of March I raise my glass 
to Gregory. Even as a boy I used to drink 
one of his powders to him at about this time 
of the year. 

February fill-dyke! Well, that's all that can 
be said for it. 


The Unfairness of Things o o o 

THE most interesting column in any paper 
(always excepting those which I write my- 
self) is that entitled " The World's Press," wherein 
one may observe the world as it appears to a 
press of which one has for the most part never 
heard. It is in this column that I have just 
made the acquaintance of The Shoe Manufacturers' 
Monthly, the journal to which the elect turn 
eagerly upon each new moon. (Its one-time 
rival, The Footwear Fortnightly, has, I am told/ 
quite lost its following.) The bon mot of the 
current number of The S.M.M. is a note to the 
effect that Kaffirs have a special fondness for 
boots which make a noise. I quote this simply 
as an excuse for referring to the old problem of 
the squeaky boots and the squeaky collar; the 
problem, in fact, of the unfairness of things. 

The majors and clubmen who assist their 
country with columns of advice on clothes have 
often tried to explain why a collar squeaks, but 

Not That It Matters 

have never done so to the satisfaction of any 
man of intelligence. They say that the collar 
is too large or too small, too dirty or too clean. 
They say that if you have your collars made 
for you (like a gentleman) you will be all right, 
but that if you buy the cheap, ready-made article, 
what can you expect ? They say that a little 
soap on the outside of the shirt, or a little some- 
thing on the inside of something else, that this, 
that, and the other will abate the nuisance. 
They are quite wrong. 

The simple truth, and everybody knows it 
really, is that collars squeak for some people 
and not for others. A squeaky collar round the 
neck of a man is a comment, not upon the 
collar, but upon the man. That man is unlucky. 
Things are against him. Nature may have done 
all for him that she could, have given him a 
handsome outside and a noble inside, but the 
world of inanimate objects is against him. 

We all know the man whom children or dogs 
love instinctively. It is a rare gift to be able to 
inspire this affection. The Fates have been kind 
to him. But to inspire the affection of inanimate 
things is something greater. The man to whom 
a collar or a window sash takes instinctively is a 
man who may truly be said to have luck on his side. 

The Unfairness of Things 

Consider him for a moment. His collar never 
squeaks; his clothes take a delight in fitting 
him. At a dinner-party he walks as by instinct 
straight to his seat, what time you and I are 
dragging our partners round and round the 
table in search of our cards. The windows of 
taxicabs open to him easily. When he travels 
by train his luggage works its way to the front 
of the van and is the first to jump out at 
Paddington. String hastens to undo itself when 
he approaches ; he is the only man who can make 
a decent impression with sealing-wax. If he is 
asked by the hostess in a crowded drawing-room 
to ring the bell, that bell comes out from behind 
the sofa where it hid from us and places itself in 
a convenient spot before his eyes. Asparagus 
. stiffens itself at sight of him, macaroni winds 
itself round his fork. 

You will observe that I am not describing just 
the ordinary lucky man. t^e may lose thousands 
on the Stock Exchange ; he may be jilted ; 
whenever he goes to the Oval to see Hobbs, 
Hobbs may be out first ball ; he may invariably 
get mixed up in railway accidents. That is a 
kind of ill-luck which one can bear, not indeed 
without grumbling, but without rancour. The 
man who is unlucky to experience these things 

Not That It Matters 

at least has the consolation of other people's 
sympathy ; but the man who is the butt of 
inanimate things has no one's sympathy. We 
may be on a motor bus which overturns and 
nobody will say that it is our fault, but if our 
collar deliberately and maliciously squeaks, every- 
body will say that we ought to buy better 
collars ; if our dinner cards hide from us, or the 
string of our parcel works itself into knots, we 
are called clumsy ; our asparagus and macaroni 
give us a reputation for bad manners ; our 
luggage gets us a name for dilatoriness. 

I think we, we others, have a right to complain. 
However lucky we may be in other ways, if 
we have not this luck of inanimate things we 
have a right to complain. It is pleasant, I admit, 
to win 500 on the Stock Exchange by a stroke 
of sheer good fortune, but even in the blue of 
this there is a cloud, for the next 500 that we 
win by a stroke of shrewd business will certainly 
be put down to luck. Luck is given the credit 
of all our successes, but the other man is given 
the credit of all his luck. That is why we have 
a right to complain. 

I do not know why things should conspire 
against a man. Perhaps there is some justice 
in it. It is possible nay, probable that the 

The Unfairness of Things 

man whom things love is hated by animals and 
children even by his fellow-men. Certainly he 
is hated by me. Indeed, the more I think of 
him, the more I see that he is not a nice man 
in any way. The gods have neglected him ; he 
has no good qualities. He is a worm. No 
wonder, then, that this small compensation is 
doled out to him the gift of getting on with 
inanimate things. This gives him (with the 
unthinking) a certain reputation for readiness 
and dexterity. If ever you meet a man with 
such a reputation, you will know what he 
really is. 

Circumstances connected with the hour at 
which I rose this morning ordained that I should 
write this article in a dressing-gown. I shall 
now put on a collar. I hope it will squeak. 


Daffodils o o o *e> ^> -& 

THE confession-book, I suppose, has dis- 
appeared. It is twenty years since I have 
seen one. As a boy I told some inquisitive 
owner what was my favourite food (porridge, I 
fancy), my favourite hero in real life and in 
fiction, my favourite virtue in woman, and so 
forth. I was a boy, and it didn't really matter 
what were my likes and dislikes then, for I was 
bound to outgrow them. But Heaven helpt he 
journalist of those days who had to sign his name 
to opinions so definite ! For when a writer has 
said in print (as I am going to say directly) 
that the daffodil is his favourite flower, simply 
because, looking round his room for inspiration, 
he has seen a bowl of daffodils on his table and 
thought it beautiful, it would be hard on him if 
some confession-album-owner were to expose him 
in the following issue 'as already committed on 
oath to the violet. Imaginative art would be- 
come impossible. 



Fortunately I have no commitments, and I 
may affirm that the daffodil is, and always has 
been, my favourite flower. Many people will put 
their money on the rose, but it is impossible that 
the rose can give them the pleasure which the 
daffodil gives them, just as it is impossible that 
a thousand pounds can give Rockefeller the 
pleasure which it gives you or me. For the 
daffodil comes, not only before the swallow 
comes which is a matter of indifference, as no- 
body thinks any the worse of the swallow in 
consequence but before all the many flowers of 
summer; it comes on the heels of a flowerless 
winter. Whereby it is as superior to the rose 
as an oasis in the Sahara is to champagne at a 

Yes, a favourite flower must be a spring flower 
there is no doubt about that. You have your 
choice, then, of the daffodil, the violet, the prim- 
rose, and the crocus. The bluebell comes too 
late, the cowslip is but an indifferent primrose ; 
camelias and anemones and all the others which 
occur to you come into a different class. Well, 
then, will you choose the violet or the crocus ? 
Or will you follow the legendary Disraeli and 
have primroses on your statue ? 

I write as one who spends most of his life in 
F 81 

Not That It Matters 

London, and for me the violet, the primrose, and 
the crocus are lacking in the same necessary 
quality they pick badly. My favourite flower 
must adorn my house ; to show itself off to the 
best advantage within doors it must have a long 
stalk. A crocus, least of all, is a flower to be 
plucked. I admit its charm as the first hint of 
spring that is vouchsafed to us in the parks, but 
I want it nearer home than that. You cannot 
pick a crocus and put it in water ; nor can you 
be so cruel as to spoil the primrose and the violet 
by taking them from their natural setting; but 
the daffodil cries aloud to be picked. It is what 
it is waiting for. 

"Long stalks, please." Who, being com- 
manded by his lady to bring in flowers for the 
house, has not received this warning? And 
was there ever a stalk to equal the daffodil's for 
length and firmness and beauty ? Other flowers 
must have foliage to set them off, but daffodils 
can stand by themselves in a bowl, and their 
green and yellow dress brings all spring into the 
room. A house with daffodils in it is a house lit 
up, whether or no the sun be shining outside. 
Daffodils in a green bowl and let it snow if 
it will. 

Wordsworth wrote a poem about daffodils. 


He wrote poems about most flowers. If a plant 
would be unique it must be one which had never 
inspired him to song. But he did not write 
about daffodils in a bowl. The daffodils which 
I celebrate are stationary; Wordsworth's lived 
on the banks of Ullswater, and fluttered and 
tossed their heads and danced in the breeze. 
He hints that in their company even he might 
have been jocose a terrifying thought, which 
makes me happier to have mine safely indoors. 
When he first saw them there (so he says) he 
gazed and gazed and little thought what wealth 
the show to him had brought. Strictly speaking, 
it hadn't brought him in anything at the mo- 
ment, but he must have known from his previous 
experiences with the daisy and the celandine 
that it was good for a certain amount. 

A simple daffodil to him 
Was so much matter for a slim 
Volume at two and four. 

You may say, of course, that I am in no better 
case, but then I have never reproached other 
people (as he did) for thinking of a primrose 
merely as a primrose. 

But whether you prefer them my way or 
Wordsworth's indoors or outdoors will make 


Not That It Matters 

no difference in this further matter to which 
finally I call your attention. Was there ever a 
more beautiful name in the world than daffodil ? 
Say it over to yourself, and then say "aga- 
panthus" or "chrysanthemum/' or anything else 
you please, and tell me if the daffodils do not 
have it. 

Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies, 
Let them live upon their praises ; 
Long as there's a sun that sets, 
Primroses will have their glory ; 
Long as there are violets 
They will have a place in story; 
But for flowers my bowls to fill, 
Give me just the daffodil. 

As Wordsworth ought to have said. 

A Household Book o o o <s* 

ONCE on a time I discovered Samuel Butler ; 
not the other two, but the one who wrote 
The Way of All Flesh, the second-best novel in 
the English language. I say the second-best, so 
that, if you remind me of Tom Jones or The Mayor 
of Casterbridge or any other that you fancy, I can 
say that, of course, that one is the best. Well, 
I discovered him, just as Voltaire discovered 
Habakkuk, or your little boy discovered Shake- 
speare the other day, and I committed my dis- 
covery to the world in two glowing articles. Not 
unnaturally the world remained unmoved. It 
knew all about Samuel Butler. 

Last week I discovered a Frenchman, Claude 
Tillier, who wrote in the early part of last century 
a book called Mon Oncle Benjamin, which may be 
freely translated Mr Uncle Benjamin. (I read it 
in the translation.) Eager as I am to be lyrical 
about it, I shall refrain. I think that I am 
probably safer with Tillier than with Butler, but 

Not That It Matters 

I dare not risk it. The thought of your scorn at 
my previous ignorance of the world-famous Tillier, 
your amused contempt because I have only just 
succeeded in borrowing the classic upon which 
you were brought up, this is too much for me. 
Let us say no more about it. Claude Tillier who 
has not heard of Claude Tillier ? Mon Oncle 
Benjamin who has not read it, in French or (as 
I did) in American ? Let us pass on to another 

For I am going to speak of another discovery ; 
of a book which should be a classic, but is not ; 
of a book of which nobody has heard unless 
through me. It was published some twelve years 
ago, the last-published book of a well-known 
writer. When I tell you his name you will say, 
" Oh yes ! I love his books ! " and you will 
mention So-and-So, and its equally famous sequel 
Such-and-Such. But when I ask you if you have 
read my book, you will profess surprise, and say 
that you have never heard of it. " Is it as good 
as So-and-So and Such-and-Such ? " you will ask, 
hardly believing that this could be possible. 
" Much better," I shall reply and there, if these 
things were arranged properly, would be another 
ten per cent, in my pocket. But, believe me, I 
shall be quite content with your gratitude. 

A Household Book 

Well, the writer of my book is Kenneth 
Grahame. You have heard of him? Good, I 
thought so. The books you have read are The 
Golden Age and Dream Days, Am I not right ? 
Thank you. But the book you have not read 
my book is The Wind in the Willows. Am I not 
right again ? Ah, I was afraid so. 

The reason why I knew you had not read it 
is the reason why I call it " my " book. For the 
last ten or twelve years I have been recommending 
it. Usually 1 speak about it at my first meeting 
with a stranger. It is my opening remark, just 
as yours is something futile about the weather. 
If I don't get it in at the beginning, I squeeze it 
in at the end. The stranger has got to have it 
some time. Should I ever find myself in the 
dock, and one never knows, my answer to the 
question whether I had anything to say would 
be, " Well, my lord, if I might just recommend 
a book to the jury before leaving." Mr. Justice 
Darling would probably pretend that he had read 
it, but he wouldn't deceive me. 

For one cannot recommend a book to all the 
hundreds of people whom one has met in ten years 
without discovering whether it is well known or 
not. It is the amazing truth that none of those 
hundreds had heard of The Wind in the Willows 

Not That It Matters 

until I told them about it. Some of them had 
never heard of Kenneth Grahame ; well, one did 
not have to meet them again, and it takes all 
sorts to make a world. But most of them were 
in your position great admirers of the author 
and his two earlier famous books, but ignorant 
thereafter. I had their promise before they left 
me, and waited confidently for their gratitude. 
No doubt they also spread the good news in their 
turn, and it is just possible that it reached you 
in this way, but it was to me, none the less, that 
your thanks were due. For instance, you may 
have noticed a couple of casual references to it, 
as if it were a classic known to all, in a famous 
novel published last year. It was I who intro- 
duced that novelist to it six months before. 
Indeed, I feel sometimes that it was I who wrote 
The Wind in the Willows, and recommended it to 
Kenneth Grahame ... but perhaps I am wrong 
here, for I have not the pleasure of his acquaint- 
ance. Nor, as I have already lamented, am I 
financially interested in its sale, an explanation 
which suspicious strangers require from me some- 

I shall not describe the book, for no description 
would help it. But I shall just say this ; that it 
is what I call a Household Book. By a House- 

A Household Book 

hold Book I mean a book which everybody in the 
household loves and quotes continually ever after- 
wards ; a book which is read aloud to every new 
guest, and is regarded as the touchstone of his 
worth. But it is a book which makes you feel 
that, though everybody in the house loves it, it 
is only you who really appreciate it at its true 
value, and that the others are scarcely worthy of 
it. It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that the 
author was thinking of you when he wrote it. 
"I hope this will please Jones," were his final 
words, as he laid down his pen. 

Well, of course, you will order the book at once. % 
But I must give you one word of warning. When 
you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to 
suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my 
taste, still less on the genius of Kenneth Grahame. 
You are merely sitting in judgment on your- 
self. . . . You may be worthy ; I do not know. 
But it is you who are on trial. 


Lunch <c- o -G* > o o 

FOOD is a subject of conversation more 
spiritually refreshing even than the weather, 
for the number of possible remarks about the 
weather is limited, whereas of food you can 
talk on and on and on. Moreover, no heat of 
controversy is induced by mention of the atmo- 
spheric conditions (seeing that we are all agreed 
as to what is a good day and what is a bad one), 
and where there can be no controversy there can 
be no intimacy in agreement. But tastes in food 
differ so sharply (as has been well said in Latin 
and, I believe, also in French) that a pronounced 
agreement in them is of all bonds of union the 
most intimate. Thus, if a man hates tapioca 
pudding he is a good fellow and my friend. 

To each his favourite meal. But if I say that 
lunch is mine I do not mean that I should like 
lunch for breakfast, dinner, and tea; I do not 
mean that of the four meals (or five, counting 
supper) lunch is the one which I most enjoy at 


which I do myself most complete justice. This 
is so far from being true that I frequently miss 
lunch altogether . . . the exigencies of the 
journalistic profession. To-day, for instance, 
I shall probably miss it. No; what I mean is 
that lunch is the meal which in the abstract 
appeals to me most because of its catholicity. 

We breakfast and dine at home, or at other 
people's homes, but we give ourselves up Jo 
London for lunch, and London has provided an 
amazing variety for us. We can have six courses 
and a bottle of champagne, with a view of the 
river, or one poached egg and a box of dominoes, 
with a view of the skylights ; we can sit or we can 
stand, and without doubt we could, if we wished, 
recline in the Roman fashion ; we can spend two 
hours or five minutes at it ; we can have some- 
thing different every day of the week, or cling 
permanently (as I know one man to do) to a chop 
and chips and what you do with the chips I have 
never discovered, for they combine so little of 
nourishment with so much of inconvenience that 
Nature can never have meant them for provender. 
Perhaps as counters. . . . But I am wandering 
from my theme. 

There is this of romance about lunch, that one 
can imagine great adventures with stockbrokers, 


Not That It Matters 

actor-managers, publishers, and other demigods 
to have had their birth at the luncheon table. 
If it is a question of " bulling " margarine or 
''bearing" boot-polish, if the name for the 
new play is still unsettled, if there is some idea 
of an American edition whatever the emergency, 
the final word on the subject is always the same, 
" Come and have lunch with me, and we'll talk 
it over"; and when the waiter has taken your 
hat and coat, and you have looked diffidently at 
the menu, and in reply to your host's question, 
" What will you drink ? " have made the only 
possible reply, " Oh, anything that you're drink- 
ing " (thus showing him that you don't insist on 
a bottle to yourself) then you settle down to 
business, and the history of England is enlarged 
by who can say how many pages. 

And not only does one inaugurate business 
matters at lunch, but one also renews old friend- 
ships. Who has not had said to him in the Strand, 
" Hallo, old fellow, 1 haven't seen you for ages ; 
you must come and lunch with me one day " ? 
And who has not answered, "Rather! I should 
love to," and passed on with a glow at the heart 
which has not died out until the next day, when 
the incident is forgotten? An invitation to 
dinner is formal, to tea unnecessary, to breakfast 


impossible, but there is a casualness, very friendly 
and pleasant, about invitations to lunch which 
make them complete in themselves, and in no 
way dependent on any lunch which may or may 
not follow. 

Without having exhausted the subject of lunch 
in London (and I should like to say that it is now 
certain that I shall not have time to partake 
to-day), let us consider for a moment lunch in 
the country. I do not mean lunch in the open 
air, for it is obvious that there is no meal so 
heavenly as lunch thus eaten, and in a short article 
like this I have no time in which to dwell upon 
the obvious. I mean lunch at a country house. 
Now, the most pleasant feature of lunch at a 
country house is this that you may sit next to 
whomsoever you please. At dinner she may be 
entrusted to quite the wrong man ; at breakfast 
you are faced with the problem of being neither 
too early for her nor yet too late for a seat beside 
her ; at tea people have a habit of taking your 
chair at the moment when a simple act of courtesy 
has drawn you from it in search of bread and 
butter ; but at lunch you follow her in and there 
you are fixed. 

But there is a place, neither London nor the 
country, which brings out more than any other 

place all that is pleasant in lunch. It was really 
the recent experience of this which set me 
writing about lunch. Lunch in the train ! It 
should be the "second meal" about 1.30 
because then you are really some distance from 
London and are hungry. The panorama flashes 
by outside, nearer and nearer comes the beautiful 
West ; you cross rivers and hurry by little villages, 
you pass slowly and reverently through strange 
old towns . . . and, inside, the waiter leaves the 
potatoes next to you and slips away. 

Well, it is his own risk. Here goes. . . . What 
I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must 
be a pretty decent sort of fellow. 


The Friend of Man o -o *> o 

WHEN swords went out of fashion, walking- 
sticks, I suppose, came into fashion. 
The present custom has its advantages. Even in 
his busiest day the hero's sword must have 
returned at times to its scabbard, and what would 
he do then with nothing in his right hand ? But 
our walking-sticks have no scabbards. We grasp 
them always, ready at any moment to summon a 
cab, to point out a view, or to dig an enemy in 
the stomach. Meanwhile we slash the air in 
defiance of the world. 

My first stick was a malacca, silver at the 
collar and polished horn as to the handle. For 
weeks it looked beseechingly at me from a shop 
window, until a lucky birthday tip sent me in 
after it. We went back to school together that 
afternoon, and if anything can lighten the cloud 
which hangs over the last day of holidays, it is 
the glory of some such stick as mine. Of course 
it was too beautiful to live long; yet its death 

Not That It Matters 

became it. I had left many a parental umbrella 
in the train unhonoured and unsung. My 
malacca was mislaid in an hotel in Norway. And 
even now when the blinds are drawn and we pull 
up our chairs closer round the wood fire, what 
time travellers tell to awestruck stay-at-homes 
tales of adventure in distant lands, even now if 
by a lucky chance Norway is mentioned, I tap 
the logs carelessly with the poker and drawl, " I 
suppose you didn't happen to stay at Vossvangen ? 
I left a malacca cane there once. Rather a good 
one too." So that there is an impression among 
my friends that there is hardly a town in Europe 
but has had its legacy from me. And this I owe 
to my stick. 

My last is of ebony, ivory-topped. Even 
though I should spend another fortnight abroad 
I could not take this stick with me. It is not a 
stick for the country ; its heart is in Piccadilly. 
Perhaps it might thrive in Paris if it could stand 
the sea voyage. But no, I cannot see it crossing 
the Channel ; in a cap I am no companion for it. 
Could I step on to the boat in a silk hat and then 
retire below but I am always unwell below, and 
that would not suit its dignity. It stands now in 
a corner of my room crying aloud to be taken to 
the opera. I used to dislike men who took canes 

The Friend of Man 

to Covent Garden, but I see now how it must 
have been with them. An ebony stick topped 
with ivory has to be humoured. Already I am 
considering a silk-lined cape, and it is settled 
that my gloves are to have black stitchings. 

Such is my last stick, for it was given to me 
this very morning. At my first sight of it I 
thought that it might replace the common one 
which I lost in an Easter train. That was silly of 
me. I must have a stick of less gentle birth 
which is not afraid to be seen with a soft 
hat. It must be a stick which I can drop, or 
on occasion kick ; one with which I can slash 
dandelions ; one for which, when ultimately I 
leave it in a train, conscience does not drag me 
to Scotland Yard. In short, a companion- 
able stick for a day's journey ; a country 

The ideal country stick will never be found. 
It must be thick enough to stand much rough 
usage of a sort which I will explain presently, 
and yet it must be thin so that it makes a 
pleasant whistling sound through the air. Its 
handle must be curved so that it can pull down 
the spray of blossom of which you are in need, 
or pull up the luncheon basket which you want 
even more badly, and yet it must be straight so 
G 97 

Not That It Matters 

that you can drive an old golf ball with it. It 
must be unadorned, so that it shall lack ostenta- 
tion, and yet it must have a band, so that when 
you throw stones at it you can count two if you 
hit the silver. You begin to see how difficult it 
is to achieve the perfect stick. 

Well, each one of us must let go those pro- 
perties which his own stick can do best without. 
For myself I insist on this my stick must be 
good for hitting and good to hit with. A stick, 
we are agreed, is something to have in the hand 
when walking. But there are times when we 
sit down ; and if our journey shall have taken 
us to the beach, our stick must at once be propped 
in the sand while from a suitable distance we 
throw stones at it. However beautiful the sea, 
its beauty can only be appreciated properly in 
this fashion. Scenery must not be taken at a 
gulp ; we must absorb it unconsciously. With 
the mind gently exercised as to whether we 
scored a two on the band or a one just below 
it, and with the muscles of the arm at 
stretch, we are in a state ideally receptive of 

And, for my other essential of a country stick, 
it must be possible to grasp it by the wrong end 
and hit a ball with it. So it must have no 

The Friend ot Man 

ferrule, and the handle must be heavy and 
straight. In this way was golf born ; its creator 
roamed the fields after his picnic lunch, knock- 
ing along the cork from his bottle. At first he 
took seventy-nine from the gate in one field to 
the oak tree in the next ; afterwards fifty-four. 
Then suddenly he saw the game. We cannpt 
say that he was no lover of Nature. The desire 
to knock a ball about, to play silly games with 
a stick, comes upon a man most keenly when he 
is happy ; let it be ascribed that he is happy to 
the streams and the hedges and the sunlight 
through the trees. And so let my stick have a 
handle heavy and straight, and let there be no 
ferrule on the end. Be sure that I have an old 
golf ball in my pocket. 

In London one is not so particular. Chiefly we 
want a stick for leaning on when we are talking 
to an acquaintance suddenly met. After the 
initial " Hulloa ! " and the discovery that we 
have nothing else of importance to say, the 
situation is distinctly eased by the remembrance 
of our stick. It gives us a support moral and 
physical, such as is supplied in a drawing-room 
by a cigarette. For this purpose size and shape 
are immaterial. Yet this much is essential it 
must not be too slippery, or in our nervousness 

Not That It Matters 

we may drop it altogether. My ebony stick with 

the polished ivory top 

But I have already decided that my ebony 
stick is out of place with the everyday hat. It 
stands in its corner waiting for the opera season. 
I must get another stick for rough work. 


The Diary Habit o *> o *> 

A NEWSPAPER has been lamenting the decay 
ji\. of the diary-keeping habit, with the natural 
result that several correspondents have written to 
say that they have kept diaries all their lives. 
No doubt all these diaries now contain the entry* 

" Wrote to the Daily to deny the assertion 

that the diary-keeping habit is on the wane." 
Of such little things are diaries made. 

I suppose this is the reason why diaries are so 
rarely kept nowadays that nothing ever happens 
to anybody. A diary would be worth writing up 
if it could be written like this : 

Monday. "Another exciting day. Shot a 
couple of hooligans on my way to business and 
was forced to give my card to the police. On 
arriving at the office was surprised to find the 
building on fire, but was just in time to rescue 
the confidential treaty between England and 
Switzerland. Had this been discovered by the 
public, war would infallibly have resulted. Went 

Not That It Matters 

out to lunch and saw a runaway elephant in the 
Strand. Thought little of it at the time, but 
mentioned it to my wife in the evening. She 
agreed that it was worth recording." 

Tuesday. " Letter from solicitor informing me 
that I have come into 1,000,000 through the 
will of an Australian gold-digger named Tomkins 
On referring to my diary I find that I saved his 
life two years ago by plunging into the Serpentine. 
This is very gratifying. Was late at the office as 
I had to look in at the Palace on the way, in 
order to get knighted, but managed to get a 
good deal of work done before I was interrupted 
by a madman with a razor, who demanded 100. 
Shot him after a desperate struggle. Tea at an 

ABC, where I met the Duke of . Fell into 

the Thames on my way home, but swam ashore 
without difficulty." 

Alas ! we cannot do this. Our diaries are very 
prosaic, very dull indeed. They read like this : 

Monday. " Felt inclined to stay in bed this 
morning and send an excuse to the office, but 
was all right after a bath and breakfast. Worked 
till 1.30 and had lunch. Afterwards worked till 
five, and had my hair cut on the way home. 
After dinner read A Man's Passion, by Theodora 
Popgood. Rotten. Went to bed at eleven." 

The Diary Habit 

Tuesday. "Had a letter from Jane. Did 
some good work in the morning, and at lunch 
met Henry, who asked me to play golf with him 
on Saturday. Told him I was playing with Peter, 
but said I would like a game with him on the 
Saturday after. However, it tumed out he was 
playing with William then, so we couldn't fix 
anything up. Bought a pair of shoes on my way 
home, but think they will be too tight. The 
man says, though, that they will stretch." 

Wednesday. " Played dominoes at lunch and 
won fivepence." 

If this sort of diary is now falling into decay, 
the world is not losing much. But at least it is 
a harmless pleasure to some to enter up their day's 
doings each evening, and in years to come it may 
just possibly be of interest to the diarist to know 
that it was on Monday, 27th April, that he 
had his hair cut. Again, if in the future any 
question arose as to the exact date of Henry's 
decease, we should find in this diary proof that 
anyhow he was alive as late as Tuesday, 
28th April. That might, though it probably 
won't, be of great importance. But there is 
another sort of diary which can never be of 
any importance at all. I make no apology for 
giving a third selection of extracts. 

Not That It Matters 

Monday. " Rose at nine and came down to 
find a letter from Mary. How little we know 
our true friends ! Beneath the mask of outward 
affection there may lurk unknown to us the 
serpent's tooth of jealousy. Mary writes that 
she can make nothing for my stall at the bazaar 
as she has her own stall to provide for. Ate my 
breakfast mechanically, my thoughts being far 
away. What, after all, is life ? Meditated deeply 
on the inner cosmos till lunch-time. Afterwards 
I lay down for an hour and composed my mind. 
I was angry this morning with Mary. Ah, how 
petty ! Shall I never be free from the bonds of 
my own nature ? Is the better self within me 
never to rise to the sublime heights of selflessness 
of which it is capable ? Rose at four and wrote 
to Mary, forgiving her. This has been a wonder- 
ful day for the spirit." 

Yes ; I suspect that a good many diaries record 
adventures of the mind and soul for lack of 
stirring adventures to the body. If they 
cannot say, " Attacked by a lion in Bond Street 
to-day," they can at least say, " Attacked by 
doubt in St. Paul's Cathedral." Most people will 
prefer, in the absence of the lion, to say nothing, 
or nothing more important than " Attacked by 
the hairdresser with a hard brush " ; but there 

The Diary Habit 

are others who must get pen to paper somehow, 
and who find that only in regard to their emotions 
have they anything unique to say. 

But, of course, there is ever within the breasts 
of all diarists the hope that their diaries may 
some day be revealed to the world. They may be 
discovered by some future generation, amazed at 
the simple doings of the twentieth century, or 
their publication may be demanded by the next 
generation, eager to know the inner life of the 
great man just delad. Best of all, they may be 
made public by the writers themselves in their 

Yes ; the diarist must always have his eye on a 
possible autobiography. " I remember," he will 
write in that great work, having forgotten all about 
it, " I distinctly remember " and here he will 
refer to his diary "meeting X. at lunch one 
Sunday and saying to him ..." 

What he said will not be of much importance, 
but it will show you what a wonderful memory 
the distinguished author retains in his old age. 

Midsummer Day *> <> *> <> 


THERE is magic in the woods on Midsummer 
Day so people tell me. Titania conducts 
her revels. Let others attend her court ; for 
myself I will beg to be excused. I have no heart 
for revelling on Midsummer Day. On any other 
festival I will be as jocund as you please, but on 
the longest day of the year I am overburdened 
by the thought that from this moment the 
evenings are beginning to draw in. We are on 
the way to winter. 

It is on Midsummer Day, or thereabouts, that 
the cuckoo changes his tune, knowing well that 
the best days are over and that in a little while 
it will be time for him to fly away. I should like 
this to be a learned article on "The Habits of 
the Cuckoo," and yet, if it were, I doubt if I 
should love him at the end of it. It is best to 
know only the one thing of him, that he lays his 
eggs in another bird's nest a friendly idea and 
beyond that to take him as we find him. And 

Midsummer Day 

we find that his only habit which matters is the 
delightful one of saying " Cuckoo." 

The nightingale is the bird of melancholy, the 
thrush sings a disturbing song of the good times 
to come, the blackbird whistles a fine, cool note 
which goes best with a February morning, and 
the skylark trills his way to a heaven far out of 
the reach of men ; and what the lesser white- 
throat says I have never rightly understood. 
But the cuckoo is the bird of present joys ' he 
keeps us company on the lawns of summer, he 
sings under a summer sun in a wonderful new 
world of blue and green. I think only happy 
people hear him. He is always about when one 
is doing pleasant things. He never sings when 
the sun hides behind banks of clouds, or if he 
does, it is softly to himself so that he may not 
lose the note. Then " Cuckoo ! " he says aloud, 
and you may be sure that everything is warm and 
bright again. 

But now he is leaving us. Where he goes 
I know not, but I think of him vaguely as at 
Mozambique, a paradise for all good birds who 
like their days long. If geography were properly 
taught at schools, I should know where Mozam- 
bique was, and what sort of people live there. 
But it may be that, with all these cuckoos 

Not That It Matters 

cuckooing and swallows swallowing from July to 
April, the country is so full of immigrants that 
there is no room for a stable population. It may 
also be, of course, that Mozambique is not the 
place I am thinking of; yet it has a birdish 

The year is arranged badly. If Mr. Willett 
were alive he would do something about it. 
Why should the days begin to get shorter at the 
moment when summer is fully arrived ? Why 
should it be possible for the vicar to say that the 
evenings are drawing in, when one is still having 
strawberries for tea ? Sometimes I think that if 
June were called August, and April June, these 
things would be easier to bear. The fact that 
in what is now called August we should be telling 
each other how wonderfully hot it was for 
October would help us to bear the slow approach 
of winter. On a Midsummer Day in such a 
calendar one would revel gladly, and there would 
be no midsummer madness. 

Already the oak trees have taken on an 
autumn look. I am told that this is due to a 
local irruption of caterpillars, and not to the 
waning of the summer, but it has a suspicious air. 
Probably the caterpillars knew. It seems strange 
now to reflect that there was a time when 

Midsummer Day 

I liked caterpillars; when I chased them up 
suburban streets, and took them home to fondle 
them ; when I knew them all by their pretty 
names, assisted them to become chrysalises, and 
watched over them in that unprotected state 
as if I had been their mother. Ah, how dear 
were my little charges to me then ! But now I 
class them with mosquitoes and blight and 
harvesters, the pests of the countryside. Why, 
I would let them crawl up my arm in those happy 
days of old, and now I cannot even endure to 
have them dropping gently into my hair. And 
I should not know what to say to a chrysalis. 

There are great and good people who know all 
about solstices and zeniths, and they can tell you 
just why it is that 24th June is so much hotter 
and longer than 24th December why it is so in 
England, I should say. For I believe (and they 
will correct me if I am wrong) that at the 
equator the days and nights are always of equal 
length. This must make calling almost an im- 
possibility, for if one cannot say to one's hostess, 
" How quickly the days are lengthening (or 
drawing in)," one might as well remain at home. 
" How stationary the days are remaining " might 
pass on a first visit, but the old inhabitants would 
not like it rubbed into them. They feel, I am 

Not That It Matters 

sure, that however saddening a Midsummer Day 
may be, an unchanging year is much more in- 
tolerable. One can imagine the superiority of a 
resident who lived a couple of miles off the 
equator, and took her visitors proudly to the end 
of the garden where the seasons were most 
mutable. There would be no bearing with her. 

In these circumstances I refuse to be depressed. 
I console myself with the thought that if 25th 
June is the beginning of winter, at least there is a 
next summer to which I may look forward. Next 
summer anything may happen. I suppose a 
scientist would be considerably surprised if the 
sun refused to get up one morning, or, having got 
up, declined to go to bed again. It would not 
surprise me. The amazing thing is that Nature 
goes on doing the same things in the same way 
year after year ; any sudden little irrelevance on 
her part would be quite understandable. When 
the wise men tell us so confidently that there will 
be an eclipse of the sun in 1921, invisible at 
Greenwich, do they have no qualms of doubt as 
the day draws near? Do they glance up from 
their whitebait at the appointed hour, just in 
case it is visible after all? Or if they have 
journeyed to Pernambuco, or wherever the best 
view is to be obtained, do they wonder whether 

Midsummer Day 

. . . perhaps . . . and tell each other the night 
before that, of course, they were coming to 
Pernambuco anyhow, to see an aunt ? 

Perhaps they don't. But for myself I am not 
so certain, and I have hopes that, certainly next 
year, possibly even this year, the days will go on 
lengthening after midsummer is over. 

At the Bookstall o o o o 

I HAVE often longed to be a grocer. To be 
surrounded by so many interesting things 
sardines, bottled raspberries, biscuits with sugar 
on the top, preserved ginger, hams, brawn under 
glass, everything in fact that makes life worth 
living ; at one moment to walk up a ladder in 
search of nutmeg, at the next to dive under a 
counter in pursuit of cinnamon; to serve little 
girls with a ha'porth of pear drops and lordly 
people like you and me with a pint of cherry gin 
is not this to follow the king of trades ? Some 
day I shall open a grocer's shop, and you will find 
me in my spare evenings aproned behind the 
counter. Look out for the currants in the 
window as you come in I have an idea for 
something artistic in the way of patterns there ; 
but, as you love me, do not offer to buy any. We 
grocers only put the currants out for show, and 
so that we may run our fingers through them 
luxuriously when business is slack. I have a good 

At the Bookstall 

line in shortbreads, madam, if I can find the box, 
but no currants this evening, I beg you. 

Yes, to be a grocer is to live well ; but, after 
all, it is not to see life. A grocer, in as far as it 
is possible to a man who sells both scented soap 
and pilchards, would become narrow. We do 
not come into contact with the outside world 
much, save through the medium of potted lobster, 
and to sell a man potted lobster is not to have 
our fingers on his pulse. Potted lobster does not 
define a man. All customers are alike to the 
grocer, provided their money is good. I perceive 
now that I was over-hasty in deciding to become 
a grocer. That is rather for one's old age. While 
one is young, and interested in persons rather 
than in things, there is only one profession to 
follow the profession of bookstall clerk. 

To be behind a bookstall is indeed to see life. 
The fascination of it struck me suddenly as I 
stood in front of a station bookstall last Monday 
and wondered who bought the tie-clips. The 
answer came to me just as I got into my train 
Ask the man behind the bookstall. He would 
know. Yes, and he would know who bought all 
his papers and books and pamphlets, and to know 
this is to know something about the people in the 
world. You cannot tell a man by the lobster he 
H 113 

Not That It Matters 

eats, but you can tell something about him by 
the literature he reads. 

For instance, I once occupied a carriage on an 
eastern line with, among others, a middle-aged 
woman. As soon as we left Liverpool Street she 
produced a bag of shrimps, grasped each indi- 
vidual in turn firmly by the head and tail, and 
ate him. When she had finished, she emptied 
the ends out of the window, wiped her hands, 
and settled down comfortably to her paper. 
What paper ? You'll never guess ; I shall have 
to tell you The Morning Post. Now doesn't 
that give you the woman ? The shrimps alone, 
no ; the paper alone, no ; but the two to- 
gether. Conceive the holy joy of the book- 
stall clerk as she and her bag of shrimps 
yes, he could have told at once they were 
shrimps approached and asked for The Morning 

The day can never be dull to the bookstall 
clerk. I imagine him assigning in his mind the 
right paper to each customer. This man will ask 
for Golfing wrong, he wants Cage Birds; that 
one over there wants The Motor ah, well, The 
Auto-Car, that's near enough. Soon he would 
begin to know the different types ; he would 
learn to distinguish between the patrons of The 

At the Bookstall 

Dancing Times and of The Vote, The Era and The 
Athenaeum. Delightful surprises would overwhelm 
him at intervals ; as when a red-letter day in 
all the great stations a gentleman in a check 
waistcoat makes the double purchase of Homer's 
Penny Stories and The Spectator. On those 
occasions, and they would be very rare, his faith 
in human nature would begin to ooze away, until 
all at once he would tell himself excitedly that 
the man was obviously an escaped criminal in 
disguise, rather overdoing the part. After which 
he would hand over The Winning Post and The 
Animals' Friend to the pursuing detective in a 
sort of holy awe. What a life ! 

But he has other things than papers to sell. 
He knows who buys those little sixpenny books 
of funny stories a problem which has often 
puzzled us others ; he understands by now the 
type of man who wants to read up a few good 
jokes to tell them down at old Robinson's, where 
he is going for the week-end. Our bookstall 
clerk doesn't wait to be asked. As soon as this 
gentleman approaches, he whips out the book, 
dusts it, and places it before the raconteur. He 
recognizes also at a glance the sort of silly ass 
who is always losing his indiarubber umbrella 
ring. Half-way across the station he can see 

Not That It Matters 

him, and he hastens to get a new card out in 
readiness. (" Or we would let you have seven 
for sixpence, sir.") And even when one of those 
subtler characters draws near, about whom it is 
impossible to say immediately whether they 
require a fountain pen with case or the Life and 
Letters, reduced to 3s. 6d., of Major-General 
Clement Bulger, C.B., even then the man behind 
the bookstall is not found wanting. If he is 
wrong the first time, he never fails to recover 
with his second. " Bulger, sir. One of our 
greatest soldiers." 

I thought of these things last Monday, and 
definitely renounced the idea of becoming a 
grocer; and as I wandered round the bookstall, 
thinking, I came across a little book, sixpence in 
cloth, a shilling in leather, called Proverbs and 
Maxims. It contained some thousands of the 
best thoughts in all languages, such as have 
guided men along the path of truth since 
the beginning of the world, from "What ho, 
she bumps ! " to " Ich dien/' and more. The 
thought occurred to me that an interesting article 
might be extracted from it, so I bought the 
book. Unfortunately enough I left it in the 
train before I had time to master it. I shall 
be at the bookstall next Monday and I shall have 

At the Bookstall 

to buy another copy. That will be all right ; 
you shan't miss it. 

But I am wondering now what the bookstall 
clerk will make of me. A man who keeps on 
buying Proverbs and Maxims, Well, as I say, 
they see life. 


"Who's Who" o o *> o o 

I LIKE my novels long. When I had read 
three pages of this one I glanced at the end, 
and found to my delight that there were two 
thousand seven hundred and twenty-five pages 
more to come. I returned with a sigh of pleasure 
to page 4>. I was just at the place where Leslie 
Patrick Abercrombie wins the prize " for laying 
out Prestatyn," some local wrestler, presumably, 
who had challenged the crowd at a country fair. 
After laying him out, Abercrombie returns to his 
books and becomes editor of the Town Planning 
Review. A wonderfully drawn character. 

The plot of this oddly named novel is too com- 
plicated to describe at length. It opens with 
the conferment of the C.M.G. on Kuli Khan 
Abbas in 1903, an incident of which the anony- 
mous author might have made a good deal more, 
and closes with a brief description of the Rev. 
Samuel Marinus Zwemer's home in New York 
City; but much has happened in the meanwhile. 

"Who's Who" 

Thousands of characters have made their brief 
appearance on the stage, and have been hustled 
off to make room for others, but so unerringly 
are they drawn that we feel that we are in the 
presence of living people. Take Colette Willy, 
for example, who comes in on page 2656 at a 
time when the denouement is clearly at hand. 
The author, who is working up to his great scene 
the appointment of Dr. Norman Wilsmore to 
the International Commission for the Publication 
of Annual Tables of Physical and Chemical Con- 
stants draws her for us in a few lightning 
touches. She is " authoress, actress." She has 
written two little books : Dialogue de Bfres and 
La Retraite Sentimentale. That is all. But is it 
not enough ? Has he not made Colette Willy 
live before us? A lesser writer might have 
plunged into elaborate details about her tele- 
phone number and her permanent address, but, 
like the true artist that he is, our author leaves 
all those things unsaid. For though he can be 
a realist when necessary (as in the case of Wallis 
Budge, to which I shall refer directly), he does 
not hesitate to trust to the impressionist sketch 
when the situation demands it. 

Wallis Budge is apparently the hero of the 
tale ; at any rate, the author devotes most space 

Not That It Matters 

to him some hundred and twenty lines or so. 
He does not appear until page 341, by which 
time we are on familiar terms with some two 
or three thousand of the less important characters. 
It is typical of the writer that, once he has 
described a character to us, has (so to speak) set 
him on his feet, he appears to lose interest in 
his creation, and it is only rarely that further 
reference is made to him. Alfred Budd, for 
instance, who became British Vice-Consul of San 
Sebastian in 1907, and resides, as the intelligent 
reader will have guessed, at the San Sebastian 
British Vice-Consulate, obtains the M.V.O. in 
1908. Nothing is said, however, of the resultant 
effect on his character, nor is any adequate de- 
scription given either then or later of the San 
Sebastian scenery. On the other hand, Bucy, 
who first appears on page 340, turns up again on 
page 644 as the Marquess de Bucy, a Grandee 
of Spain. I was half-expecting that the body 
would be discovered about this time, but the 
author is still busy over his protagonists, and 
only leaves the Marquess in order to introduce 
to us his three musketeers, de Bunsen, de Burgh, 
and de Butts. 

But it is time that I returned to our hero, Dr. 
Wallis Budge. Although Budge is a golfer of 

"Who's Who" 

world- wide experience, having "conducted ex- 
cavations in Egypt, the Island of Meroe, Nineveh 
and Mesopotamia," it is upon his mental rather 
than his athletic abilities that the author dwells 
most lovingly. The fact that in 1886 he wrote 
a pamphlet upon The Coptic History oj Elijah 
the Tishbite, and followed it up in 1888 with 
one on The Coptic Martyrdom of George of 
Cappadocia (which is, of course, in every 
drawing-room) may not seem at first to have 
much bearing upon the tremendous events which 
followed later. But the author is artistically right 
in drawing our attention to them ; for it is 
probable that, had these popular works not been 
written, our hero would never have been en- 
couraged to proceed with his Magical Texts of 
Za-Walda-Hawdrydt, Tasfd Marydm, Sebhat-Le'ab, 
Gabra SheldsS Tezdzu, Aheta-Mtkdel, which had 
such a startling effect on the lives of all the 
other characters, and led indirectly to the finding, 
of the blood-stain on the bath-mat. My own 
suspicions fell immediately upon Thomas Rooke, 
of whom we are told nothing more than 
" R.W.S.," which is obviously the cabbalistic sign 
of some secret society. 

One of the author's weaknesses is a certain 
carelessness in the naming of his characters. 

Not That It Matters 

For instance, no fewer than two hundred and 
forty-one of them are called Smith. True, he 
endeavours to distinguish between them by 
giving them such different Christian names as 
John, Henry, Charles, and so forth, but the 
result is bound to be confusing. Sometimes, 
indeed, he does not even bother to distinguish 
between their Christian names. " Thus we have 
three Henry Smiths, who appear to have mixed 
themselves up even in the author's mind. He 
tells us that Colonel Henry's chief recreation is 
"the study of the things around him," but it 
sounds much more like that of the Reverend 
Henry, whose opportunities in the pulpit would 
be considerably greater. It is the same with the 
Thomsons, the Williamses and others. When 
once he hits upon one of these popular names, he 
is carried away for several pages, and insists on 
calling everybody Thomson. But occasionally he 
has an inspiration. Temistocle Zammit is a good 
name, though the humour of calling a famous 
musician Zimbalist is perhaps a little too obvious. 
In conclusion, one can say that while our 
author's merits are many, his faults are of no 
great moment. Certainly he handles his love- 
scenes badly. Many of his characters are married 
but he tells us little of the early scenes of 

"Who's Who" 

courtship, and says nothing of any previous 
engagements which were afterwards broken off. 
Also, he is apparently incapable of describing 
a child, unless it is the offspring of titled persons 
and will itself succeed to the title; even then 
he prefers to dismiss it in a parenthesis. But as 
a picture of the present-day Englishman his novel 
can hardly be surpassed. He is not a writer 
who is only at home with one class. He can 
describe the utterly unknown and unimportant 
with as much gusto as he describes the genius 
or the old nobility. True, he overcrowds his 
canvas, but one must recognize this as his 
method. It is so that he expresses himself best ; 
just as one painter can express himself best in 
a rendering of the whole Town Council of 
Slappenham, while another only requires a 
single haddock on a plate. 

His future will be watched with interest. He 
hints in his introduction that he has another 
volume in preparation, in which he will introduce 
to us several entirely new C.B.E.'s, besides carry- 
ing on the histories (in the familiar manner of 
our modern novelists) of many of those with 
whom we have already made friends. Who's 
Who, 1920, it is to be called, and I, for one, 
shall look out for it with the utmost eagerness. 

A Day at Lord's o o <> *> 

WHEN one has been without a certain 
pleasure for a number of years, one is 
accustomed to find on returning to it that it 
is not quite so delightful as one had imagined. 
In the years of abstinence one had built up too 
glowing a picture, and the reality turns out 
to be something much more commonplace. 
Pleasant, yes ; but, after all, nothing out of 
the ordinary. Most of us have made this 
discovery for ourselves in the last few months 
of peace. We have been doing the things 
which we had promised ourselves so often 
during the war, and though they have been 
jolly enough, they are not quite all that we 
dreamed in France and Flanders. As for the 
negative pleasures, the pleasure of not saluting 
or not attending medical boards, they soon lose 
their first freshness. 

Yet I have had one pre-war pleasure this week 
which carried with it no sort of disappointment. 

A Day at Lord's 

It was as good as I had thought it would be. I 
went to Lord's and watched first-class cricket 

There are people who want to "brighten 
cricket." They remind me of a certain manager 
to whom I once sent a play. He told me, more 
politely than truthfully, how much he had enjoyed 
reading it, and then pointed out what was wrong 
with the construction. " You have two brothers 
here," he said. "They oughtn't to have been 
brothers, they should have been strangers. Then 
one of them marries the heroine. That's wrong ; 
the other one ought to have married her. Then 
there's Aunt Jane she strikes me as a very 
colourless person. If she could have been 

arrested in the second act for bigamy 

And then I should leave out your third act 
altogether, and put the fourth act at Monte 
Carlo, and let the heroine be blackmailed by 
what's the fellow's name ? See what I mean ? " 
I said that I saw. "You don't mind my criti- 
cizing your play?" he added carelessly. I said 
that he wasn't criticizing my play. He was 
writing another one one which I hadn't the least 
wish to write myself. 

And this is what the brighteners of cricket 
are doing. They are inventing a new game, a 


Not That It Matters 

game which those of us who love cricket have 
not the least desire to watch. If anybody says 
that he finds Lord's or the Oval boring, I shall 
not be at all surprised ; the only thing that 
would surprise me would be to hear that he 
found it more boring than I find Epsom or 
Newmarket. Cricket is not to every body' s_ 
taste ; nor is racing. But those who like cricket 
like it for what it is, and they don't want it 
brightened by those who don't like it. Lord 
Lonsdale, I am sure, would hate me to brighten 
up Newmarket for him. 

Lord's as it is, which is as it was five years ago, 
is good enough for me. I would not alter any of 
it. To hear the pavilion bell ring out again was 
to hear the most musical sound in the world. 
The best note is given at 11.20 in the morning; 
later on it lacks something of its early ecstasy. 
When people talk of the score of this or that 
opera I smile pityingly to myself. They have 
never heard the true music. The clink of ice 
against glass gives quite a good note on a 
suitable day, but it has not the magic of the 
Lord's bell. 

As was my habit on these occasions five years 
ago, I bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph on 
entering the ground. In the ordinary way I do 

A Day at Lord's 

not take in this paper, but I have always had a 
warm admiration for it, holding it to have qualities 
which place it far above any other London journal 
of similar price. For the seats at Lord's are un,- 
commonly hard, and a Daily Telegraph, folded 
twice and placed beneath one, brings something 
of the solace which good literature will always 
bring. My friends had noticed before the war, 
without being able to account for it, that my 
views became noticeably more orthodox as the 
summer advanced, only to fall away again with 
the approach of autumn. I must have been 
influenced subconsciously by the leading articles. 
It rained, and play was stopped for an hour or 
two. Before the war I should have been annoyed 
about this, and I should have said bitterly that it 
was just my luck. But now I felt that I was 
indeed lucky thus to recapture in one day all the 
old sensations. It was delightful to herald again 
a break in the clouds, and to hear the crowd clap- 
ping hopefully as soon as ever the rain had ceased ; 
to applaud the umpires, brave fellows, when they 
ventured forth at last to inspect the pitch ; to 
realize from the sudden activity of the grounds- 
men that the decision was a favourable one; to 
see the umpires, this time in their white coats, 
come out again with the ball and the bails ; and 

so to settle down once more to the business of 
the day. 

Perhaps the cricket was slow from the point 
of view of the follower of league football, but I 
do not feel that this is any condemnation of it. 
An essay of Lamb's would be slow to a reader of 
William le Queux's works, who wanted a new 
body in each chapter. I shall not quarrel with 
anyone who holds that a day at Lord's is a dull 
day ; if he thinks so, let him take his amusement 
elsewhere. But let him not quarrel with me, be- 
cause I keep to my opinion, as firmly now as before 
the war, that a day at Lord's is a joyous day. 
If he will leave me the old Lord's, I will promise 
not to brighten his football for him. 


By the Sea o o o o o 

IT is very pleasant in August to recline in Fleet 
Street, or wherever stern business keeps one, 
and to think of the sea. I do not envy the 
millions at Margate and Blackpool, at Salcombe 
and Minehead, for I have persuaded myself that 
the sea is not what it was in my day. Then the 
pools were always full of starfish; crabs really 
big crabs stalked the deserted sands ; and ane- 
mones waved their feelers at you from every 

Poets have talked of the unchanging sea (and 
they may be right as regards the actual water), 
but I fancy that the beach must be deteriorating. 
In the last ten years I don't suppose I have 
seen more than five starfishes, though I have 
walked often enough by the margin of the waves 
and not only to look for lost golf balls. There 
have been occasional belated little crabs whom 
I have interrupted as they were scuttling home, 
but none of those dangerous monsters to whom 
I 129 

Not That It Matters 

in fearful excitement, and as a challenge to one's 
companion, one used to offer a forefinger. I 
refuse regretfully your explanation that it is my 
finger which is bigger; I should like to think 
that it were indeed so, and that the boys and 
girls of to-day find their crabs and starfishes in 
the size and quantity to which I was accustomed. 
But I am afraid we cannot hide it from ourselves 
that the supply is giving out. It is in fact 
obvious that one cannot keep on taking starfishes 
home and hanging them up in the hall as baro- 
meters without detriment to the coming race. 

We had another amusement as children, in 
which I suppose the modern child is no longer 
able to indulge. We used to wait until the tide 
was just beginning to go down, and then start to 
climb round the foot of the cliffs from one sandy 
bay to another. The waves lapped the cliffs, a 
single false step would" have plunged us into 
the sea, and we had all the excitement of being 
caught by the tide without any of the danger. 
We had the further excitement, if we were 
lucky, of seeing frantic people waving to us 
from the top of the cliff, people of inconceivable 
ignorance, who thought that the tide was coming 
up and that we were in desperate peril. But it 
was a very special day when that happened. 

By the Sea 

I have done a little serious climbing since 
those days, but not any which was more enjoy- 
able. The sea was never more than a foot below 
us and never more than two feet deep, but the 
shock of falling into it would have been mo- 
mentarily as great as that of falling down a 
precipice. You had therefore the two joys of 
climbing the physical pleasure of the accom- 
plished effort, and the glorious mental reaction 
when your heart returns from the middle of your 
throat to its normal place in your chest. And 
you had the additional advantages that you 
couldn't get killed, and that, if an insuperable 
difficulty presented itself, you were not driven 
back, but merely waited five minutes for the tide 
to lower itself and disclose a fresh foothold. 

But, as I say, these are not joys for the modern 
child. The tide, I dare say, is not what it was 
it does not, perhaps, go down so certainly. Or 
the cliffs are of a different and of an inferior 
shape. Or people are no longer so ignorant as 
to mistake the nature of your position. One 
way or another I expect I do better in Fleet 
Street. I shall stay and imagine myself by the 
sea ; I shall not disappoint myself with the 

But I imagine myself away from bands and 

Not That It Matters 

piers ; for a band by a moonlit sea calls you to 
be very grown-up, and the beach and the crabs 
such as are left call you to be a child ; and 
between the two you can very easily be miserable. 
I can see myself with a spade and bucket being 
extraordinarily happy. The other day I met a 
lucky little boy who had a pile of sand in his 
garden to play with, and I was fortunate enough 
to get an order for a tunnel. The tunnel which 
I constructed for him was a good one, but not so 
good that I couldn't see myself building a better 
one with practice. I came away with an ambition 
for architecture. If ever I go to the sea again 
I shall build a proper tunnel ; and afterwards 
well, we shall see. At the moment I feel in 
tremendous form. I feel that I could do a 

There is one joy of childhood, however, which 
one can never recapture, and that is the joy of 
getting wet in the sea. There is a statue not 
so far from Fleet Street of the man who intro- 
duced Sunday schools into England, but the man 
whom boys and girls would really like to com- 
memorate in lasting stone is the doctor who first 
said that salt water couldn't give you a cold. 
Whether this was true or not I do not know, but 
it was a splendid and never-failing retort to 

By the Sea 

anxious grown-ups, and added much to the joys 
of the seaside. But it is a joy no longer possible 
to one who is his own master. I, for instance, 
can get my feet wet in fresh water if I like ; to 
get them wet in salt water is no special privilege. 
Feeling as I do, writing as I have written, it 
is sad for me to know that if I really went to the 
sea this August it would not be with a spade and 
a bucket but with a bag of golf clubs ; that even 
my evenings would be spent, not on the beach, 
but on a bicycle riding to the nearest town for a 
paper. Yet it is useless for you to say that I do 
not love the sea with my old love, that I am no 
longer pleased with the old childish things. I 
shall maintain that it is the sea which is not 
what it was, and that I am very happy in Fleet 
Street thinking of it as it used to be. 


Golden Fruit o o o o o 

OF the fruits of the year I give my vote to 
the orange. In the first place it is a 
perennial if not in actual fact, at least in the 
greengrocer's shop. On the days when dessert 
is a name given to a handful of chocolates 
and a little preserved ginger, when macedoine de 
fruits is the title bestowed on two prunes and 
a piece of rhubarb, then the orange, however 
sour, comes nobly to the rescue ; and on those 
other days of plenty when cherries and straw- 
berries and raspberries and gooseberries riot 
together upon the table, the orange, sweeter than 
ever, is still there to hold its own. Bread and 
butter, beef and mutton, eggs and bacon, are not 
more necessary to an ordered existence than 
the orange. 

It is well that the commonest fruit should 
be also the best. Of the virtues of the orange 
I have not room fully to speak. It has pro- 
perties of health-giving, as that it cures influenza 

Golden Fruit 

and establishes the complexion. It is clean, for 
whoever handles it on its way to your table but 
handles its outer covering, its top coat, which is 
left in the hall. It is round, and forms an 
excellent substitute with the young for a cricket 
ball. The pips can be flicked at your enemies, 
and quite a small piece of peel makes a slide for 
an old gentleman. 

But all this would count nothing had not 
the orange such delightful qualities of taste. I 
dare not let myself go upon this subject. I am 
a slave to its sweetness. I grudge every marriage 
in that it means a fresh supply of orange blossom, 
the promise of so much golden fruit cut short. 
However, the world must go on. 

Next to the orange I place the cherry. The 
cherry is a companionable fruit. You can eat 
it while you are reading or talking, and you can 
go on and on, absent-mindedly as it were, though 
you must mind not to swallow the stone. The 
trouble of disengaging this from the fruit is just 
sufficient to make the fruit taste sweeter for the 
labour. The stalk keeps you from soiling your 
fingers; it enables you also to play bob cherry. 
Lastly, it is by means of cherries that one pene- 
trates the great mysteries of life when and 
whom you will marry, and whether she really 

Not That It Matters 

loves you or is taking you for your worldly 
prospects. (I may add here that I know a girl 
who can tie a knot in the stalk of a cherry with 
her tongue. It is a tricky business, and I am 
doubtful whether to add it to the virtues of the 
cherry or not.) 

There are only two ways of eating straw- 
berries. One is neat in the strawberry bed, and 
the other is mashed on the plate. The first 
method generally requires us to take up a bent 
position under a net in a hot sun very uncom- 
fortable, and at any time fatal to the hair. The 
second method takes us into the privacy of the 
home, for it demands a dressing-gown and no 
spectators. For these reasons I think the straw- 
berry an overrated fruit. Yet I must say that 
I like to see one floating in cider cup. It gives 
a note of richness to the affair, and excuses any 
shortcomings in the lunch itself. 

Raspberries are a good fruit gone wrong. A 
raspberry by itself might indeed be the best fruit 
of all ; but it is almost impossible to find it 
alone. I do not refer to its attachment to the 
red currant ; rather to the attachment to it of so 
many of our dumb little friends. The instinct 
of the lower creatures for the best is well shown 
in the case of the raspberry. If it is to be eaten 

Golden Fruit 

it must be picked by the hand, well shaken, and 
then taken. 

When you engage a gardener the first thing to 
do is to come to a clear understanding with him 
about the peaches. The best way of settling 
the matter is to give him the carrots and the 
black currants and the rhubarb for himself, to 
allow him a free hand with the groundsel and 
the walnut trees, and to insist in return for this 
that you should pick the peaches when and how 
you like. If he is a gentleman he will consent. 
Supposing that some satisfactory arrangement 
were come to, and supposing also that you had 
a silver-bladed pocket-knife with which you 
could peel them in the open air, then peaches 
would come very high in the list of fruits. But 
the conditions are difficult. 

Gooseberries burst at the wrong end and 
smother you ; melons as the nigger boy dis- 
covered make your ears sticky ; currants, when 
you have removed the skin and extracted the 
seeds, are unsatisfying; blackberries have the 
faults of raspberries without their virtues ; plums 
are never ripe. Yet all these fruits are excellent 
in their season. Their faults are faults which we 
can forgive during a slight acquaintance, which 
indeed seem but pleasant little idiosyncrasies 

Not That It Matters 

in the stranger. But we could not live with 

Yet with the orange we do live year in and 
year out. That speaks well for the orange. The 
fact is that there is an honesty about the orange 
which appeals to all of us. If it is going to be 
bad for even the best of us are bad sometimes 
it begins to be bad from the outside, not from 
the inside. How many a pear which presents a 
blooming face to the world is rotten at the core. 
How many an innocent-looking apple is harbour- 
ing a worm in the bud. But the orange has no 
secret faults. Its outside is a mirror of its inside, 
and if you are quick you can tell the shopman so 
before he slips it into the bag. 


Signs of Character *> o o o 

WELLINGTON is said to have chosen his 
officers by their noses and chins. The 
standard for them in noses must have been rather 
high, to judge by the portraits of the Duke, but 
no doubt he made allowances. Anyhow, by 
this method he got the men he wanted. Some 
people, however, may think that he would have 
done better to have let the mouth be the decid- 
ing test. The lines of one's nose are more or 
less arranged for one at birth. A baby, born 
with a snub nose, would feel it hard that the 
decision that he would be no use to Wellington 
should be come to so early. And even if he 
arrived in the world with a Roman nose, he 
might smash it up in childhood, and with it his 
chances of military fame. This, I think you will 
agree with me, would be unfair. 

Now the mouth is much more likely to be a 
true index of character. A man may clench his 
teeth firmly or smile disdainfully or sneer, or do 

Not That It Matters 

a hundred things which will be reflected in his 
mouth rather than in his nose or chin. It is 
through the mouth and eyes that all emotions are 
expressed, and in the mouth and eyes therefore 
that one would expect the marks of such emo- 
tions to be left. I did read once of a man whose 
nose quivered with rage, but it is not usual ; I 
never heard of anyone whose chin did anything. 
It would be absurd to expect it to. 

But there arises now the objection that a man 
may conceal his mouth, and by that his character, 
with a moustache. There arises, too, the objec- 
tion that a person whom you thought was a fool, 
because he always went about with his mouth 
open, may only have had a bad cold in the head. 
In fact the difficulties of telling anyone's char- 
acter by his face seem more insuperable every 
moment. How, then) are we to tell whether we 
may safely trust a man with our daughter, or 
our favourite golf club, or whatever we hold 
most dear ? 

Fortunately a benefactor has stepped in at the 
right moment with an article on the cigar-manner. 
Our gentleman has made the discovery that you 
can tell a man's nature by the way he handles 
his cigar, and he gives a dozen illustrations to 
explain his theory. True, this leaves out of 

Signs of Character 

account the men who don't smoke cigars ; al- 
though, of course, you might sum them all up, 
with a certain amount of justification, as foolish. 
But you do get, I am assured, a very important 
index to the characters of smokers which is as 
much as to say of the people who really count. 

I am not going to reveal all the clues to you 
now ; partly because I might be infringing the 
copyright of another, partly because I have for- 
gotten them. But the idea roughly is that if 
a man holds his cigar between his finger and 
thumb, he is courageous and kind to animals (or 
whatever it may be), and if he holds it between 
his first and second fingers he is impulsive but 
yet considerate to old ladies, and if he holds it 
upside down he is (besides being an ass) jealous 
and self-assertive, and if he sticks a knife into 
the stump so as to smoke it to the very end he 
is yes, you have guessed this one he is mean. 
You see what a useful thing a cigar may be. 

I think now I am sorry that this theory has 
been given to the world. Yes; I blame myself 
for giving it further publicity. In the old days 
when we bought or better, had presented to 
us a cigar, a doubt as to whether it was a good 
one was all that troubled us. We bit one end 
and lit the other, and, the doubt having been 

Not That It Matters 

solved, proceeded tranquilly to enjoy ourselves. 
But all this will be changed now. We shall be 
horribly self-conscious. When we take our cigars 
from our mouths we shall feel our neighbours' 
eyes rooted upon our hands, the while we try to 
remember which of all the possible manipulations 
is the one which represents virtue at its highest 
power. Speaking for myself, I hold my cigar in 
a dozen different ways during an evening (though 
never, of course, on the end of a knife), and I 
tremble to think of the diabolically composite 
nature which the modern Wellingtons of the 
table must attribute to me. In future I see that 
I must concentrate on one method. If only I 
could remember the one which shows me at my 

But the tobacco test is not the only one. We 
may be told by the way we close our hands ; the 
tilt of a walking-stick may unmask us. It is 
useless to model ourselves now on the strong, 
silent man of the novel whose face is a shutter 
to hide his emotions. This is a pity ; yes, I am 
convinced now that it is a pity. If my secret 
fault is cheque-forging I do not want it to be 
revealed to the world by the angle of my hat ; 
still less do I wish to discover it in a friend 
whom I like or whom I can beat at billiards. 

Signs of Character 

How dull the world would be if we knew 
every acquaintance inside out as soon as we had 
offered him our cigar-case. Suppose I put an 
extreme case to you suppose a pleasant young 
bachelor who admired our bowling showed him- 
self by his shoe laces to be a secret wife-beater. 
What could we do ? Cut so unique a friend ? 
Ah no. Let us pray to remain in ignorance of 
the faults of those we like. Let us pray it as 
sincerely as we pray that they shall remain in 
ignorance of ours. 

Intellectual Snobbery <&> o o *> 

A GOOD many years ago I had a painful 
experience. I was discovered by my 
house-master reading in bed at the unauthorized 
hour of midnight. Smith minor in the next bed 
(we shared a candle) was also reading. We were 
both discovered. But the most annoying part of 
the business, as it seemed to me then, was that 
Smith minor was discovered reading Alton Locke, 
and that I was discovered reading Marooned Among 
Cannibals. If only our house-master had come in 
the night before ! Then he would have found me 
reading Alton Locke. Just for a moment it occurred 
to me to tell him this, but after a little reflection 
I decided that it would be unwise. He might 
have misunderstood the bearings of the revelation. 
There is hardly one of us who is proof against 
this sort of intellectual snobbery. A detective 
story may have been a very good friend to us, but 
we don't want to drag it into the conversation ; we 
prefer a casual reference to The Egoist, with which 
1 44 

Intellectual Snobbery 

we have perhaps only a bowing acquaintance ; a 
reference which leaves the impression that we are 
inseparable companions, or at any rate inseparable 
until such day when we gather from our betters 
that there are heights even beyond The Egoist. 
Dead or alive, we would sooner be found with 
a copy of Marcus Aurelius than with a copy of 
Marie Corelli. I used to know a man who carried 
always with him a Russian novel in the original ; 
not because he read Russian, but because a day 
might come when, as the result of some accident, 
the " pockets of the deceased " would be exposed 
in the public Press. As he said, you never know ; 
but the only accident which happened to him was 
to be stranded for twelve hours one August at a 
wayside station in the Highlands. After this he 
maintained that the Russians were overrated. 

I should like to pretend that I myself have 
grown out of these snobbish ways by this time, 
but I am doubtful if it would be true. It 
happened to me not so long ago to be travelling 
in company of which I was very much ashamed ; 
and to be ashamed of one's company is to be 
a snob. At this period I was trying to amuse 
myself (and, if it might be so, other people) by 
writing a burlesque story in the manner of an 
imaginary collaboration by Sir Hall Caine and 
K 145 

Not That It Matters 

Mrs. Florence Barclay. In order to do this I had 
to study the works of these famous authors, and 
for many week-ends in succession I might have 
been seen travelling to, or returning from, the 
country with a couple of their books under my 
arm. To keep one book beneath the arm is 
comparatively easy ; to keep two is much more 
difficult. Many was the time, while waiting for 
my train to come in, that one of those books 
slipped from me. Indeed, there is hardly a 
junction in the railway system of the southern 
counties at which I have not dropped on some 
Saturday or other a Caine or a Barclay ; to have 
it restored to me a moment later by a courteous 
fellow-passenger courteous, but with a smile of 
gentle pity in his eye as he glimpsed the author's 
name. " Thanks very much," I would stammer, 
blushing guiltily, and perhaps I would babble 
about a sick friend to whom I was taking them, 
or that I was running out of paper-weights. But 
he never believed me. He knew that he would 
have said something like that himself. 

Nothing is easier than to assume that other 
people share one's weaknesses. No doubt Jack 
the Ripper excused himself on the ground that it 
was human nature ; possibly, indeed, he wrote an 
essay like this, in which he speculated mildly as. 

Intellectual Snobbery 

to the reasons which made stabbing so attractive 
to us all. So I realize thab I may be doing you 
an injustice in suggesting that you who read may 
also have your little snobberies. But I confess 
that I should like to cross-examine you. If in 
conversation with you, on the subject (let us say) 
of heredity, a subject to which you had devoted 
a good deal of study, I took it for granted that 
you had read Ommany's Approximations, would 
you make it quite clear to me that you had not 
read it ? Or would you let me carry on the 
discussion on the assumption that you knew it 
well; would you, even, in answer to a direct 
question, say shamefacedly that though you had 
not er actually read it, you er knew about 
it, of course, and had er read extracts from it ? 
Somehow I think that I could lead you on to 
this ; perhaps even make you say that you had 
actually ordered it from your library, before I told 
you the horrid truth that Ommany's Approxima- 
tions was an invention of my own. 

It is absurd that we (I say " we," for I include 
you now) should behave like this, for there is no 
book over which we need be ashamed, either to 
have read it or not to have read it. Let us, 
therefore, be frank. In order to remove the 
unfortunate impression of myself which I have 

Not That It Matters 

given you, I will confess that I have only read 
three of Scott's novels, and begun, but never 
finished, two of Henry James'. I will also confess 
and here I am by way of restoring that un- 
fortunate impression that I do quite well in 
Scottish and Jacobean circles on those five books. 
For, if a question arises as to which is Scott's 
masterpiece, it is easy for me to suggest one of 
my three, with the air of one who has chosen it, 
not over two others, but over twenty. Perhaps 
one of my three is the acknowledged master- 
piece ; I do not know. If it is, then, of course, 
all is well. But if it is not, then I must appear 
rather a clever fellow for having rejected the 
obvious. With regard to Henry James, my 
position is not quite so secure; but at least I 
have good reason for feeling that the two novels 
which I was unable to finish cannot be his best, 
and with a little tact I can appear to be defend- 
ing this opinion hotly against some imaginary 
authority who has declared in favour of them. 
One might have read the collected works of both 
authors, yet make less of an impression. 

Indeed, sometimes I feel that I have read their 

collected works, and Ommany's Approximations, 

and many other books with which you would be 

only too glad to assume familiarity. For in giving 


Intellectual Snobbery 

others the impression that I am on terms with 
these masterpieces, I have but handed on an 
impression which has gradually formed itself in 
my own mind. So I take no advantage of them ; 
and if it appears afterwards that we have been 
deceived together, I shall be at least as surprised 
and indignant about it as they. 


A Question of Form o o o ^> 

THE latest invention on the market is the 
wasp gun. In theory it is something like 
a letter clip ; you pull the trigger and the upper 
and ower plates snap together with a suddenness 
which would surprise any insect in between. 
The trouble will be to get him in the right place 
before firing. But I can see that a lot of fun can 
be got out of a wasp drive. We shall stand on 
the edge of the marmalade while the beaters go 
through it, and, given sufficient guns, there will 
not be many insects to escape. A loader to 

clean the weapon at regular intervals will be 

a necessity. 

Yet I am afraid that society will look down 
upon the wasp gun. Anything useful and handy 
is always barred by the best people. I can 
imagine a bounder being described as " the sort 
of person who uses a wasp gun instead of a tea- 
spoon." As we all know, a hat-guard is the mark 
of a very low fellow. I suppose the idea is that 

A Question of Form 

you and I, being so dashed rich, do not much 
mind if our straw hat does blow off into the 
Serpentine ; it is only the poor wretch of a clerk, 
unable to afford a new one every day, who must 
take precautions against losing his first. Yet 
how neat, how useful, is the hat-guard. With 
what pride its inventor must have given birth to 
it. Probably he expected a statue at the corner 
of Cromwell Road, fitting reward for a public 
benefactor. He did not understand that, since 
his invention was useful, it was probably bad 

Consider, again, the Richard or "dicky." 
Could there be anything neater or more dressy, 
anything more thoroughly useful ? Yet you and 
I scorn to wear one. I remember a terrible 
situation in a story by Mr. W. S. Jackson. The 
hero found himself in a foreign hotel without his 
luggage. To that hotel came, with her father, the 
girl whom he adored silently. An invitation was 
given him to dinner with them, and he had to 
borrow what clothes he could from friendly 
waiters. These, alas! included a dicky. Well, 
the dinner began well ; our hero made an 
excellent impression; all was gaiety. Suddenly 
a candle was overturned and the flame caught 
the heroine's frock. The hero knew what the 

Not That It Matters 

emergency demanded. He knew how heroes 
always whipped off their coats and wrapped 
them round burning heroines. He jumped up 
like a bullet (or whatever jumps up quickest) and 

He had a dicky on! Without his coat, he 
would discover the dicky to the one person of all 
from whom he wished to hide it. Yet if he kept 
his coat on, she might die. A truly horrible 
dilemma. I forget which horn he impaled him- 
self upon, but I expect you and I would have kept 
the secret of the Richard at all costs. And what 
really is wrong with a false shirt-front ? Nothing 
except that it betrays the poverty of the wearer. 
Laundry bills don't worry us, bless you, who have 
a new straw hat every day ; but how terrible if it 
was suspected that they did. 

Our gentlemanly objection to the made-up tie 
seems to rest on a different foundation ; I am 
doubtful as to the psychology of that. Of course 
it is a deception, but a deception is only serious 
when it passes itself off as something which really 
matters. Nobody thinks that a self-tied tie 
matters ; nobody is really proud of being able to 
make a cravat out of a length of silk. I suppose 
it is simply the fact that a made-up tie saves time 
which condemns it ; the safety razor was nearly 

A Question of Form 

condemned for a like reason. We of the leisured 
classes can spend hours over our toilet; by all 
means let us despise those who cannot. 

As far as dress goes, a man only knows the 
things which a man mustn't do. It would be 
interesting if women would tell us what no real 
lady ever does. I have heard a woman classified 
contemptuously as one who does her hair up with 
two hair-pins, and no doubt bad feminine form 
can be observed in other shocking directions. 
But again it seems to be that the semblance of 
poverty, whether of means or of leisure, is the one 
thing which must be avoided. 

Why, then, should the wasp gun be considered 
bad form? I don't know, but I have an in- 
stinctive feeling that it will be. Perhaps a wasp 
gun indicates a lack of silver spoons suitable for 
lethal uses. Perhaps it shows too careful a con- 
sideration of the marmalade. A man of money 
drowns his wasp in the jar with his spoon, and 
carelessly calls for another pot to be opened. 
The poor man waits on the outskirts with his 
gun, and the marmalade, void of corpses, can still 
be passed round. Your gun proclaims your 
poverty; then let it be avoided. 

All the same I think I shall have one. I have 
kept clear of hat-guards and Richards and made- 

Not That It Matters 

up ties without quite knowing why, but honestly 
I have not felt the loss of them. The wasp gun 
is different ; having seen it, I feel that I should be 
miserable without it. It is going to be excellent 
sport, wasp-shooting ; a steady hand, a good eye, 
and a certain amount of courage will be called for. 
When the season opens I shall be there, good 
form or bad form. We shall shoot the apple- 
quince coverts first. " Hornet over ! " 


A Slice of Fiction o o o o 

THIS is a jolly world, and delightful things 
go on in it. For instance, I had a picture 
post card only yesterday from William Benson, 
who is staying at Ilfracombe. He wrote to say 
that he had gone down to Ilfracombe for a short 
holiday, and had been much struck by the beauty 
of the place. On one of his walks he happened 
to notice that there was to be a sale of several 
plots of land occupying a quite unique position 
in front of the sea. He had immediately thought 
of me in connection with it. My readiness to con- 
sider a good investment had long been known to 
him, and in addition he had heard rumours that 
I might be coming down to Ilfracombe in order 
to recruit my health. If so, here was a chance 
which should be brought to my knowledge. 
Further particulars . . . and so on. Which was 
extremely friendly of William Benson. In fact, 
my only complaint of William is that he has his 
letters lithographed a nasty habit in a friend. 

Not That It Matters 

But I have allowed myself to be carried away. 
It was not really of Mr. Benson that I was think- 
ing when I said that delightful things go on in 
this world, but of a certain pair of lovers, the 
tragedy of whose story has been revealed to me 
in a two-line " agony " in a morning paper. When 
anything particularly attractive happens in real 
life, we express our appreciation by saying that it 
is the sort of thing which one reads about in books 
perhaps the highest compliment we can pay to 
Nature. Well, the story underlying this advertise- 
ment reeks of the feuilleton and the stage. 

" PAT, I was alone when you called. You heard 
me talking to the dog. Please make appointment. 

You will agree with me when you read this 
that it is almost too good to be true. There is a 
freshness and a naivete about it which is only to 
be found in American melodrama. Let us re- 
construct the situation, and we shall see at once 
how delightfully true to fiction real life can be. 

Pat was in love with Daisy engaged to her 
we may say with confidence (for a reason which 
will appear in a moment). But even though she 
had plighted her troth to him, he was jealous, 
miserably jealous, of every male being who 

A Slice of Fiction 

approached her. One day last week he called 
on her at the house in Netting Hill. The parlour- 
maid opened the door and smiled brightly at him. 
"Miss Daisy is upstairs in the drawing-room," 
she said. " Thank you," he replied, " I will 
announce myself." (Now you see how we know 
that they were engaged. He must have an- 
nounced himself in order to have reached the 
situation implied in the " agony," and he would 
not have been allowed to do so if he had not had 
the standing of a fiance.) 

For a moment before knocking Patrick stood 
outside the drawing-room door, and in that 
moment the tragedy occurred ; he heard his lady's 
voice. "Darling/" it said, "she shall kiss her 
sweetest, ownest, little pupsy-wupsy." 

Patrick's brow grew black. His strong jaw 
clenched (just like the jaws of those people on 
the stage), and he staggered back from the door. 
" This is the end," he muttered. Then he strode 
down the stairs and out into the stifling streets. 
And up in the drawing-room of the house in 
Notting Hill Daisy and the toy pom sat and 
wondered why their lord and master was so late. 

Now we come to the letter which Patrick wrote 
to Daisy, telling her that it was all over. He 
would explain to her how he had " accidentally " 

Not That It Matters 

(he would dwell upon that) accidentally overheard 

her and her (probably he was rather coarse 

here) exchanging terms of endearment ; he would 
accuse her of betraying one whose only fault was 
that he loved her not wisely but too well ; he 
would announce gloomily that he had lost his 
faith in women. All this is certain. But it would 
appear also that he made some such threat as 
this most likely in a postscript : " It is no good 
your writing. There can be no explanation. 
Your letters will be destroyed unopened." It is 
a question, however, if even this would have pre- 
vented Daisy from trying an appeal by post, for 
though one may talk about destroying letters un- 
opened, it is an extremely difficult thing to do. I 
feel, therefore, that Patrick's letter almost certainly 
contained a P.P.S. also to this effect : " I cannot 
remain in London where we have spent so many 
happy hours together. I am probably leaving 
for the Rocky Mountains to-night. Letters will 
not be forwarded. Do not attempt to follow me." 
And so Daisy was left with only the one means 
of communication and explanation the agony 
columns of the morning newspapers. " I was 
alone when you called. You heard me talking 
to the dog. Please make appointment." In the 
last sentence there is just a hint of irony which 


A Slice of Fiction 

I find very attractive. It seems to me to say, 
" Don't for heaven's sake come rushing back to 
Notting Hill (all love and remorse) without 
warning, or you might hear me talking to the cat 
or the canary. Make an appointment, and I'll 
take care that there's nothing in the room when 
you come." We may tell ourselves, I think, that 
Daisy understands her Patrick. In fact, I am 
beginning to understand Patrick myself, and I 
see now that the real reason why Daisy chose 
the agony column as the medium of communica- 
tion was that she knew Patrick would prefer it. 
Patrick is distinctly the sort of man who likes 
agony columns. I am sure it was the first thing 
he turned to on Wednesday morning. 

It occurs to me to wonder if the honeymoon 
will be spent at Ilfracombe. Patrick must have 
received William Benson's picture post card too. 
We have all had one. Just fancy if he had gone 
to the Rocky Mountains; almost certainly Mr. 
Benson's letters would not have been forwarded. 


The Label o o o o o 

ON those rare occasions when I put on my 
best clothes and venture into society, I 
am always astonished at the number of people 
in it whom I do not know. I have stood in a 
crowded ball-room, or sat in a crowded restaurant, 
and reflected that, of all the hundreds of souls 
present, there was not one of whose existence I 
had previously had any suspicion. Yet they all 
live tremendously important lives, lives not only 
important to themselves but to numbers of friends 
and relations ; every day they cross some sort of 
Rubicon ; and to each one of them there comes a 
time when the whole of the rest of the world 
(including confound it ! me) seems absolutely 
of no account whatever. That I had lived all 
these years in contented ignorance of their 
existence makes me a little ashamed. 

To-day in my oldest clothes I have wandered 
through the index of The Times Literary Supple- 
ment, and I am now feeling a little ashamed of 
1 60 

The Label 

my ignorance of so many books. Of novels alone 
there seem to be about 900. To write even a 
thoroughly futile novel is, to my thinking, a 
work of extraordinary endurance; yet in, say, 
600 houses this work has been going on, and I 
(and you, and all of us) have remained utterly 
unmoved. Well, I have been making up for my 
indifference this morning. I have been reading 
the titles of the books. That is not so good (or 
bad) as reading the books themselves, but it 
enables me to say that I have heard of such and 
such a novel, and in some cases it does give me a 
slight clue to what goes on inside. 

I should imagine that the best part of writing 
a novel was the choosing a title. My idea of a 
title is that it should be something which reflects 
the spirit of your work and gives the hesitating 
purchaser some indication of what he is asked 
to buy. To call your book Ethnan Frome or 
Esther Grant or John Temple or John Merri- 
dew (I quote from the index) is to help the 
reader not at all. All it tells him is that one 
of the characters inside will be called John or 
Esther a matter, probably, of indifference to 
him. Phyllis is a better title, because it does 
give a suggestion of the nature of the book. No 
novel with a tragic ending, no powerful realistic 
L 161 

Not That It Matters 

novel, would be called Phyllis, Without 
having read Phyllis I should say that it was a 
charming story of suburban life, told mostly in 
dialogue, and that Phyllis herself was a perfect 
dear though a little cruel about that first box of 
chocolates he sent her. However, she married 
him in the end all right. 

But if you don't call your book Phyllis or 
John Temple or Mrs. Elmsley, what 1 hear 
you asking are you to call it? Well, you 
might call it Kapak, as I see somebody has 
done. The beauty of Kapak as a title is that 
if you come into the shop by the back entrance, 
and so approach the book from the wrong end, it 
is still Kapak. A title which looks the same 
from either end is of immense advantage to an 
author. Besides, in this particular case there is 
a mystery about Kapak which one is burning 
to solve. Is it the bride's pet name for her 
father-in-law, the password into the magic castle, 
or that new stuff with which you polish brown 
boots ? Or is it only a camera ? Let us buy the 
book at once and find out. 

Another mystery title is The Man nnth 
Thicker Beard, which probably means some- 
thing. It is like Kapak in this, that it reads 
equally well backwards ; but it is not so subtle. 

The Label 

Still, we should probably be lured on to buy it. 
On the other hand, A Welsh Nightingale and a 
Would-be Suffragette is just the sort of book 
to which we would not be tempted by the title. 
It is bad enough to have to say to the shopman, 
" Have you A Welsh Nightingale and a Would-be 
Suffragette?" but if we forgot the title, as we 
probably should, and had to ask at random for a 
would-be nightingale and a Welsh suffragette, 
or a wood nightingale and a Welsh rabbit, or 
the Welsh suffragette's night in gaol, we should 
soon begin to wish that we had decided on some 
quite simple book such as Greed, Earth, or 

And this is why a French title is always such 
a mistake. Authors must remember that their 
readers have not only to order the book, in many 
cases, verbally, but also to recommend it to their 
friends. So I think Mr. Oliver Onions made a 
mistake when he called his collection of short 
stories Pot au Feu. It is a good title, but it is 
the sort of title to which the person to whom 
you are recommending the book always answers, 
"What?" And when people say "What?" in 
reply to your best Parisian accent, the only 
thing possible for you is to change the subject 


Not That It Matters 

But it is quite time that we came to some sort 
of decision as to what makes the perfect title. 
Kapok will attract buyers, as I have said, 
though to some it may not seem quite fair. 
Excellent from a commercial point of view, 
it does not satisfy the conditions we laid 
down at first. The title, we agreed, must 
reflect the spirit of the book. In one sense 
Five Gallons of Gasolene does this, but of 
course nobody could ask for that in a book- 

Well, then, here is a perfect title, Their High 
Adventure. That explains itself just sufficiently. 
When a Man's Married, For Henri and Navarre, 
and The King Over the Water are a little more 
obvious, but they are still good. The Love 
Story of a Mormon makes no attempt to 
deceive the purchaser, but it can hardly be 
called a beautiful title. Melody in Silver, on 
the other hand, is beautiful, but for this reason 
makes one afraid to buy it, lest there should be 
disappointment within. In fact, as I look down 
the index, I am beginning to feel glad that 
there are so .many hundreds of novels which 
I haven't read. In most of them there would 
be disappointment. And really one only 
reads books nowadays so as to be able to 

The Label 

say to one's neighbour on one's rare appear- 
ances in society, "Have you read The Forged 
Coupon, and what do you think of The Muck 
Rake ? " And for this an index is quite 


The Profession o o o o o 

I HAVE been reading a little book called How 
to Write for the Press. Other books which 
have been published upon the same subject are 
How to Be an Author, How to Write a Play, How 
to Succeed as a Journalist, How to Write for the 
Magazines, and How to Earn 600 a Year with 
the Pen. Of these the last-named has, I think, 
the most pleasing title. Anybody can write a 
play ; the trouble is to get it produced. Almost 
anybody can be an author; the business is to 
collect money and fame from this state of 
being. Writing for the magazines, again, 
sounds a delightful occupation, but literally it 
means nothing without the co-operation of the 
editors of the magazines, and it is this co-opera- 
tion which is so difficult to secure. But to earn 
600 a year with the pen is to do a definite 
thing; if the book could really tell the secret 
of that, it would have an enormous sale. 
I have not read it, so I cannot say what the 

The Profession 

secret is. Perhaps it was only a handbook on 

How to Write for the Press disappointed me. 
It is concerned not with the literary journalist 
(as I believe he is called) but with the reporter 
(as he is never called, the proper title being 
"special representative"). It gives in tabular 
form a list of the facts you should ascertain at 
the different functions you attend ; with this 
book in your pocket there would be no excuse 
if you neglected to find out at a wedding the 
names of the bride and bridegroom. It also 
gives and I think this is very friendly of it a 
list of useful synonyms for the principal sub- 
jects, animate and inanimate, of description. 
The danger of calling the protagonists at the 
court of Hymen (this one is not from the book ; 
I thought of it myself just now) the danger of 
calling them " the happy pair " more than once 
in a column is that your readers begin to sus- 
pect that you are a person of extremely limited 
mind, and when once they get this idea into 
their heads they are not in a proper state to 
appreciate the rest of your article. But if in 
your second paragraph you speak of " the joyful 
couple," and in your third of "the ecstatic 
brace," you give an impression of careless 

Not That It Matters 

mastery of the language which can never be 
washed away. 

Among the many interesting chapters is one 
dealing with contested elections. One of the 
questions to which the special representative 
was advised to find an answer was this : " What 
outside bodies are taking active part in the 
contest ? " In the bad old days now happily 
gone for ever the outside bodies of dead cats 
used to take an active and important part in the 
contest, and as the same body would often be 
used twice the reporter in search of statistics 
was placed in a position of great responsibility. 
Nowadays, I suppose, he is only meant to con- 
cern himself with such bodies as the Coal Con- 
sumers' League and the Tariff Reform League, 
and there would be no doubt in the mind of 
anybody as to whether they were there or not. 

I am afraid I should not be a success as " our 
special representative." I should never think of 
half the things which occur to the good reporter. 
You read in your local paper a sentence like 
this : " The bride's brother, who only arrived 
last week from Australia, where he held an 
important post under the Government, and is 
about to proceed on a tour through Canada 
with curiously enough a nephew of the bride- 

The Profession 

groom, gave her away." Well, what a mass 
of information has to be gleaned before that 
sentence can be written. Or this. "The hall 
was packed to suffocation, and beneath the glare 
of the electric light specially installed for this 
occasion by Messrs. Ampere & Son of Pumpton, 
the building being at ordinary times strikingly 
deficient in the matter of artificial lighting in 
spite of the efforts of the more progressive 
members of the town council the faces of not a 
few of the fairer sex could be observed." You 
know, I am afraid I should have forgotten all 
that. I should simply have obtained a copy of 
the principal speech, and prefaced it with the 
words, " Mr. Dodberry then spoke as follows " ; 
or, if my conscience would not allow of such 
a palpable misstatement, " Mr. Dodberry then 
rose with the intention of speaking as follows." 

In the more human art of interviewing I 
should be equally at fault. The interview itself 
would be satisfactory, but I am afraid that its 
publication would lead people to believe that 
all the best things had been said by me. To 
remember what anybody else has said is easy ; 
to remember, even five minutes after, what one 
has said oneself is almost impossible. For to 
recall your remarks in our argument at the 

Not That It Matters 

club last night is simply a matter of memory ; to 
recall mine, I have to forget all that I meant to 
have said, all that I ought to have said, and all 
that I have thought upon the subject since. 

In fact, I begin to see that the successful 
reporter must eliminate his personality alto- 
gether, whereas the successful literary journalist 
depends for his success entirely upon his person- 
ality which is what is meant by "style." I 
suppose it is for this reason that, when the literary 
journalist is sent as " our extra-special representa- 
tive " to report a prize fight or a final cup tie or 
a political meeting, the result is always appalling. 
The "ego" bulges out of every line, obviously con- 
scious that it is showing us no ordinary reporting, 
determined that it will not be overshadowed by the 
importance of the subject. And those who are 
more interested in the matter than in the manner 
regard him as an intruder, and the others regret 
that he is so greatly overtaxing his strength. 

So each to his business, and his handbook to 
each How to Write for the Press to the special 
representative, and How to Be an Author to the 
author. There is no book, I believe, called 
How to Be a Solicitor, or a doctor or an admiral 
or a brewer. That is a different matter alto- 
gether ; but any fool can write for the papers. 

Smoking as a Fine Art o o *> 

MY first Introduction to Lady Nicotine was 
at the innocent age of eight, when, finding 
a small piece of somebody else's tobacco lying 
unclaimed on the ground, I decided to experi- 
ment with it. Numerous desert island stories 
had told me that the pangs of hunger could be 
allayed by chewing tobacco ; it was thus that 
the hero staved off death before discovering the 
bread-fruit tree. Every right-minded boy of 
eight hopes to be shipwrecked one day, and it 
was proper that I should find out for myself 
whether my authorities could be trusted in this 
matter. So I chewed tobacco. In the sense 
that I certainly did not desire food for some 
time afterwards, my experience justified the 
authorities, but I felt at the time that it was 
not so much for staving off death as for reconcil- 
ing oneself to it that tobacco-chewing was to be 
recommended. I have never practised it since. 
At eighteen I went to Cambridge, and bought 

Not That It Matters 

two pipes in a case. In those days Greek was 
compulsory, but not more so than two pipes in 
a case. One of the pipes had an amber stem 
and the other a vulcanite stem, and both of them 
had silver belts. That also was compulsory. 
Having bought them, one was free to smoke 
cigarettes. However, at the end of my first 
year I got to work seriously on a shilling briar, 
and I have smoked that, or something like it, 
ever since. 

In the last four years there has grown up a 
new school of pipe-smokers, by which (I suspect) 
I am hardly regarded as a pipe-smoker at all. 
This school buys its pipes always at one particular 
shop ; its pupils would as soon think of smoking 
a pipe without the white spot as of smoking brown 
paper. So far are they from smoking brown paper 
that each one of them has his tobacco specially 
blended according to the colour of his hair, his 
taste in revues, and the locality in which he lives. 
The first blend is naturally not the ideal one. 
It is only when he has been a confirmed smoker 
for at least three months, and knows the best 
and worst of all tobaccos, that his exact require- 
ments can be satisfied. 

However, it is the pipe rather than the 
tobacco which marks him as belonging to this 

Smoking as a Fine Art 

particular school. He pins his faith, not so 
much to its labour-saving devices as to the 
white spot outside, the white spot of an other- 
wise aimless life. This tells the world that it 
is one of the pipes. Never was an announce- 
ment more superfluous. From the moment, 
shortly after breakfast, when he strikes his 
first match to the moment, just before bed- 
time, when he strikes his hundredth, it is 
obviously the pipe which he is smoking. 

For whereas men of an older school, like 
myself, smoke for the pleasure of smoking, men 
of this school smoke for the pleasure of pipe- 
owning of selecting which of their many white- 
spotted pipes they will fill with their specially- 
blended tobacco, of filling the one so chosen, 
of lighting it, of taking it from the mouth to 
gaze lovingly at the white spot and thus let- 
ting it go out, of lighting it again and letting it 
go out again, of polishing it up with their own 
special polisher and putting it to bed, and then 
the pleasure of beginning all over again with 
another white-spotted one. They are not so 
much pipe-smokers as pipe-keepers ; and to 
have spoken as I did just now of their owning 
pipes was wrong, for it is they who are in 
bondage to the white spot. 

Not That It Matters 

This school is founded firmly on four years 
of war. When at the age of eighteen you are 
suddenly given a cheque-book and called " Sir," 
you must do something by way of acknowledg- 
ment. A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that 
there has been no mistake you are undoubtedly 
a man. But you may be excused for feeling after 
the first pipe that the joys of smoking have been 
rated too high, and for trying to extract your^ 
pleasure from the polish on the pipe's surface, 
the pride of possessing a special mixture of your 
own, and such-like matters, rather than from the 
actual inspiration and expiration of smoke. In 
the same way a man not fond of reading may 
find delight in a library of well-bound books. 
They are pleasant to handle, pleasant to talk 
about, pleasant to show to friends. But it is the 
man without the library of well-bound books who 
generally does most of the reading. 

So I feel that it is we of the older school who 
do most of the smoking. We smoke uncon- 
sciously while we are doing other things ; they 
try, but not very successfully, to do other things 
while they are consciously smoking. No doubt 
they despise us, and tell themselves that we are 
not real smokers, but I fancy that they feel a 
little uneasy sometimes. For my young friends 

Smoking as a Fine Art 

are always trying to persuade me to join their 
school, to become one of the white-spotted ones. 
I have no desire to be of their company, but I 
am prepared to make a suggestion to the founder 
of the school. It is that he should invent a pipe, 
white spot and all, which smokes itself. His 
pupils could hang it in the mouth as picturesquely 
as before, but the incidental bother of keeping 
it alight would no longer trouble them. 


The Path to Glory o *> o o 

MY friend Mr. Sidney Mandragon is getting 
on. He is now one of the great ones 
of the earth. He has just been referred to 
as "Among those present was Mr. Sidney 

As everybody knows (or will know when they 
have read this article) the four stages along the 
road to literary fame are marked by the four 
different manners in which the traveller's presence 
at a public function is recorded in the Press. At 
the first stage the reporter glances at the list of 
guests, and says to himself, " Mr. George Meredith 
never heard of him/' and for all the world 
knows next morning, Mr. George Meredith might 
just as well have stayed at home. At the second 
stage (some years later) the reporter murmurs to 
his neighbour in a puzzled sort of way : " George 
Meredith ? George Meredith ? Now where have 
I come across that name lately ? Wasn't he the 
man who pushed a wheelbarrow across America ? 

The Path to Glory 

Or was he the chap who gave evidence in that 
murder trial last week ? " And, feeling that in 
either case his readers will be interested in the 
fellow, he says : " The guests included . . . Mr. 
George Meredith and many others." At the 
third stage the reporter knows at last who Mr. 
George Meredith is. Having seen an advertise- 
ment of one of his books, and being pretty sure 
that the public has read none of them, he refers 
to him as " Mr. George Meredith, the well-known 
novelist." The fourth and final stage, beyond 
the reach of all but the favoured few, is arrived 
at when the reporter can leave the name to his 
public unticketed, and says again, " Among those 
present was Mr. George Meredith." 

The third stage is easy to reach indeed, too 
easy. The " well -known actresses" are not 
Ellen Terry, Irene Vanbrugh and Marie Tempest, 
but Miss Birdie Vavasour, who has discovered a 
new way of darkening the hair, and Miss Girlie 
de Tracy, who has been arrested for shop-lifting. 
In the same way, the more the Press insists that 
a writer is " well-known," the less hope will he 
have that the public has heard of him. Better 
far to remain at the second stage, and to flatter 
oneself that one has really arrived at the fourth. 

But my friend Sidney Mandragon is, indeed, at 
M 177 

Not That It Matters 

the final stage now, for he had been "the 
well-known writer" for at least a dozen years 
previously. Of course, he has been helped by 
his name. Shakespeare may say what he likes, 
but a good name goes a long way in the writing 
profession. It was my business at one time to 
consider contributions for a certain paper, and 
there was one particular contributor whose work 
I approached with an awe begotten solely of 
his name. It was not exactly Milton, and not 
exactly Carlyle, and not exactly Charles Lamb, 
but it was a sort of mixture of all three and of 
many other famous names thrown in, so that, 
without having seen any of his work printed 
elsewhere, I felt that I could not take the risk 
of refusing it myself. "This is a good man," I 
would say before beginning his article; "this 
man obviously has style. And I shouldn't be 
surprised to hear that he was an authority on 
fishing." I wish I could remember his name 
now, and then you would see for yourself. 

Well, take Mr. Hugh Walpole (if he will allow 
me). It is safe to say that, when Mr. Walpole's 
first book came out, the average reader felt 
vaguely that she had heard of him before. She 
hadn't actually read his famous Letters, but 
she had often wanted to, and or was that his 

The Path to Glory 

uncle? Anyway, she had often heard people 
talking about him. What a very talented family 
it was ! In the same way Sidney Mandragon has 
had the great assistance of one of the two 
Christian names which carry weight in journalism. 
The other, of course, is Harold. If you are 
Sidney or Harold, the literary world is before you. 

Another hall-mark by which we can tell 
whether a man has arrived or not is provided by 
the interview. If (say) a Lepidopterist is just 
beginning his career, nobody bothers about his 
opinions on anything. If he is moderately well- 
known in his profession, the papers will seek his 
help whenever his own particular subject comes 
up in the day's news. There is a suggestion, 
perhaps, in Parliament that butterflies should be 
muzzled, and " Our Representative " promptly 
calls upon "the well-known Lepidopterist" to 
ask what he thinks about it. But if he be of 
an established reputation, then his professional 
opinion is no longer sought. What the world is 
eager for now is to be told his views on Sunday 
Games, the Decadence of the Theatre or Bands 
in the Parks. 

The modern advertising provides a new scale of 
values. No doubt Mr. Pelman offers his celebrated 
hundred guineas' fee equally to all his victims, 
. 179 

Not That It Matters 

but we may be pretty sure that in his business- 
like brain he has each one of them nicely labelled, 
a Gallant Soldier being good for so much new 
business, a titled Man of Letters being good for 
slightly less ; and that real Fame is best measured 
by the number of times that one's unbiased views 
on Pelmanism (or Tonics or Hair-Restorers) are 
considered to be worth reprinting. In this matter 
my friend Mandragon is doing nicely. For a 
suitable fee he is prepared to attribute his success 
to anything in reason, and his confession of faith 
can count upon a place in every full-page 
advertisement of the mixture, and frequently in 
the odd half-columns. I never quite understand 
why a tonic which has tightened up Mandragon's 
fibres, or a Mind-Training System which has 
brought General Blank's intellect to its present 
pitch, should be accepted more greedily by the 
man-in-the-street than a remedy which has only 
proved its value in the case of his undistinguished 
neighbour, but then I can never understand quite 
a number of things. However, that doesn't 
matter. All that matters at the moment is that 
Mr. Sidney Mandragon has now achieved glory. 
Probably the papers have already pigeon-holed 
his obituary notice. It is a pleasing thought. 


A Problem in Ethics o o o 

LIFE is full of little problems, which arise 
suddenly and find one wholly unprepared 
with a solution. For instance, you travel down 
to Wimbledon on the District Railway first-class, 
let us suppose, because it is your birthday. On 
your arrival you find that you have lost your 
ticket. Now, doubtless there is some sort of 
recognized business to be gone through which 
relieves you of the necessity of paying again. 
You produce an affidavit of a terribly affirmative 
nature, together with your card and a testimonial 
from a beneficed member of the Church of 
England. Or you conduct a genial correspond- 
ence with the traffic manager which spreads 
itself over six months. To save yourself this 
bother you simply tell the collector that you 
haven't a ticket and have come from Charing 
Cross. Is it necessary to add " first-class " ? 

Of course one has a strong feeling that one 
ought to, but I think a still stronger feeling 

Not That It Matters 

that one isn't defrauding the railway company 
if one doesn't. (I will try not to get so many 
" ones " into my next sentence.) For you may 
argue fairly that you established your right to 
travel first-class when you stepped into the 
carriage with your ticket and, it may be, had 
it examined therein by an inspector. All that 
you want to do now is to establish your right 
to leave the Wimbledon platform for the purer 
air of the common. And you can do this per- 
fectly easily with a third-class ticket. 

However, this is a problem which will only 
arise if you are careless with your property. 
But however careful you are, it may happen to 
you at any moment that you become suddenly 
the owner of a shilling with a hole in it. 

I am such an owner. I entered into possession 
a week ago Heaven knows who played the 
thing off on me. As soon as I made the discovery 
I went into a tobacconist's and bought a box of 

"This," he said, looking at me reproachfully, 
" is a shilling with a hole in it." 

" I know," I said, " but it's all right, thanks. 
I don't want to wear it any longer. The fact 

is, Joanna has thrown me However, I 

needn't go into that." 


A Problem in Ethics 

He passed it back to me. 

" I am afraid I can't take it," he said. 

" Why not ? / managed to." 

However, I had to give him one without a 
hole before he would let me out of his shop. 
Next time I was more thoughtful. I handed 
three to the cashier at my restaurant in payment 
of lunch, and the ventilated one was in the 
middle. He saw the joke of it just as I was 
escaping down the stairs. 

" Hi ! " he said, " this shilling has a hole in it." 

I went back and looked at it. Sure enough 
it had. 

" Well, that's funny," I said. " Did you drop 
it, or what ? " 

He handed the keepsake back to me. He 
also had something of reproach in his eye. 

" Thanks, very much," I said. " I wouldn't 

have lost it for worlds ; Emily But I 

mustn't bore you with the story. Good day 
to you." And I gave him a more solid coin 
and went. 

Well, that's how we are at present. A more 
unscrupulous person than myself would have 
palmed it off long ago. He would have told 
himself with hateful casuistry that the coin was 
none the worse for the air-hole in it, and that, 

Not That It Matters 

if everybody who came into possession of it 
pressed it on to the next man, nobody would be 
injured by its circulation. But I cannot argue 
like this. It pleases me to give my shilling a 
run with the others sometimes. I like to put it 
down on a counter with one or two more, pre- 
ferably in the middle of them where the draught 
cannot blow through it ; but I should indeed 
be surprised I mean sorry if it did not come 
back to me at once. 

There is one thing, anyhow, that I will not do. 
1 will not give it to a waiter or a taxi-driver 
or to anybody else as a tip. If you estimate 
the market value of a shilling with a hole in it 
at anything from ninepence to fourpence accord- 
ing to the owner's chances of getting rid of it, 
then it might be considered possibly a handsome, 
anyhow an adequate, tip for a driver ; but 
somehow the idea does not appeal to me at all. 
For if the recipient did not see the hole, you 
would feel that you had been unnecessarily 
generous to him, and that one last effort to have 
got it off on to a shopkeeper would have been 
wiser ; while if he did see it well, we know 
what cabmen are. He couldn't legally object, 
it is a voluntary gift on your part, and even 
regarded as a contribution to his watch chain 

A Problem in Ethics 

worthy of thanks, but Well, I don't like it. 

I don't think it's sportsmanlike. 

However, I have an idea at last. I know 
a small boy who owns some lead soldiers. I 
propose to borrow one of these a corporal or 
perhaps a serjeant and boil him down, and then 
fill up the hole in the shilling with lead. 
Shillings, you know, are not solid silver ; oh no, 
they have alloy in them. This one will have a 
little more than usual perhaps. One cannot tie 
oneself down to an ounce or two. 

We set out, I believe, to discuss the morals of 
the question. It is a most interesting subject. 


The Happiest Half-Hours of Life o 

^V YESTERDAY I should have gone back to 
X school, had I been a hundred years younger. 
My most frequent dream nowadays or nowa- 
nights I suppose I should say is that I am back 
at school, and trying to construe difficult passages 
from Greek authors unknown to me. That they 
are unknown is my own fault, as will be pointed 
out to me sternly in a moment. Meanwhile I 
stand up and gaze blankly at the text, wondering 
how it is that I can have forgotten to prepare it. 
" Er him the er him the the er many-wiled 
Odysseus h'r'm then, him addressing, the 
many-wiled Odysseus er addressed. Er er 

the er " And then, sweet relief, I wake 

up. That is one of my dreams ; and another is 
that I am trying to collect my books for the 
next school and that an algebra, or whatever 
you like, is missing. The bell has rung, as 
it seems hours ago, I am searching my shelves 
desperately, I am diving under my table, behind 

The Happiest Half-Hours of Life 

the chair ... I shall be late, I shall be late, 
fete, late . . . 

No doubt I had these bad moments in real life a 
hundred years ago. Indeed I must have had them 
pretty often that they should come back to me so 
regularly now. But it is curious that I should 
never dream that I am going back to school, for 
the misery of going back must have left a deeper 
mark on my mind than all the little accidental 
troubles of life when there. I was very happy at 
school ; but oh ! the utter wretchedness of the 
last day of the holidays. 

One began to be apprehensive on the Monday. 
Foolish visitors would say sometimes on the Mon- 
day, " When are you going back to school ? " and 
make one long to kick them for their tactlessness. 
As well might they have said to a condemned 
criminal, " When are you going to be hanged ? " 
or, " What kind of er knot do you think 
they'll use ? " Throughout Monday and Tuesday 
we played the usual games, amused ourselves in 
the usual way, but with heavy hearts. In the 
excitement of the moment we would forget and 
be happy, and then suddenly would come the 
thought, " We're going back on Wednesday." 

And on Tuesday evening we would bring a 
moment's comfort to ourselves by imagining that 

Not That It Matters 

we were not going back on the morrow. Our 
favourite dream was that the school was burnt 
down early on Wednesday morning, and that a 
telegram arrived at breakfast apologizing for the 
occurrence, and pointing out that it would be 
several months before even temporary accom- 
modation could be erected. No Vandal destroyed 
historic buildings so light-heartedly as we. And 
on Tuesday night we prayed that, if the light- 
nings of Heaven failed us, at least a pestilence 
should be sent in aid. Somehow, somehow, let 
the school be uninhabitable ! 

But the telegram never came. We woke on 
Wednesday morning as wakes the murderer on 
his last day. We took a dog or two for a walk ; 
we pretended to play a game of croquet. After 
lunch we donned the badges of our servitude. 
The comfortable, careless, dirty flannels were 
taken off, and the black coats and stiff white 
collars put on. At 3.30 an early tea was ready 
for us something rather special, a last mockery 
of holiday. (Dressed crab, I remember, on one 
occasion, and I travelled with my back to the 
engine after it a position I have never dared to 
assume since.) Then good-byes, tips, kisses, a 
last look, and the 4.10 was puffing out of the 
station. And nothing, nothing had happened. 

The Happiest Half-Hours of Life 

I can remember thinking in the train how 
unfair it all was. Fifty-two weeks in the year, 
I said to myself, and only fifteen of them spent 
at home. A child snatched from his mother at 
nine, and never again given back to her for more 
than two months at a time. " Is this Russia ? " 
I said ; and, getting no answer, could only comfort 
myself with the thought, "This day twelve 
weeks ! " 

And once the incredible did happen. It was 
through no intervention of Providence ; no, it 
was entirely our own doing. We got near some 
measles, and for a fortnight we were kept in 
quarantine. I can say truthfully that we never 
spent a duller two weeks. There seemed to be 
nothing to do at all. The idea that we were 
working had to be fostered by our remaining 
shut up in one room most of the day, and within 
the limits of that room we found very little in the 
way of amusement. We were bored extremely. 
And always we carried with us the thought of 
Smith or Robinson taking our place in the Junior 
House team and making hundreds of runs. . . . 

Because, of course, we were very happy at 

school really. The trouble was that we were so 

much happier in the holidays. I have had many 

glorious moments since I left school, but I have 


Not That It Matters 

no doubt as to what have been the happiest 
half-hours in my life. They were the half-hours 
on the last day of term before we started home. 
We spent them on a lunch of our own ordering. 
It was the first decent meal we had had for weeks, 
and when it was over there were all the holidays 
before us. Life may have better half-hours than 
that to offer, but I have not met them. 


Natural Science o o *& <> 

IT is when Parliament is not sitting that the 
papers are most interesting to read. I have 
found an item of news to-day which would never 
have been given publicity in the busy times, and 
it has moved me strangely. Here it is, backed 
by the authority of Dr. Chalmers Mitchell : 

" The caterpillar of the puss-moth, not satisfied 
with Nature's provisions for its safety, makes faces 
at young birds, and is said to alarm them con- 

I like that " is said to." Probably the young 
bird would deny indignantly that he was alarmed, 
and would explain that he was only going away 
because he suddenly remembered that he had an 
engagement on the croquet lawn, or that he had 
forgotten his umbrella. But whether he alarms 
them or not, the fact remains that the caterpillar 
of the puss-moth does make faces at young birds ; 
and we may be pretty sure that, even if he began 
the practice in self-defence, the habit is one that 

Not That It Matters 

has grown on him. Indeed, I can see him 
actually looking out for a thrush's nest, and then 
climbing up to it, popping his head over the edge 
suddenly and making a face. Probably, too, the 
mother birds frighten their young ones by telling 
them that, if they aren't good, the puss-moth 
caterpillar will be after them ; while the poor 
caterpillar himself, never having known a 
mother's care, has had no one to tell him that 
if he goes on making such awful faces he will 
be struck like that one day. 

These delvings into natural history bring back 
my youth very vividly. I never kept a puss- 
moth, but I had a goat-moth which ate its way 
out of a match-box, and as far as I remember 
took all the matches with it. There were cater- 
pillars, though, of a gentler nature who stayed 
with me, and of these some were obliging 
enough to turn into chrysalises. Not all by any 
means. A caterpillar is too modest to care about 
changing in public. To conduct his metamor- 
phosis in some quiet corner where he is not 
poked every morning to see if he is getting stiffer 
is what your caterpillar really wants. Mine 
had no private life to mention. They were as 
much before the world as royalty or an actress. 
And even those who brought off the first event 

Natural Science 

safely never emerged into the butterfly world- 
Something would always happen to them. " Have 
you seen my chrysalis?" we used to ask each 
other. " I left him in the bathroom yesterday." 

But what I kept most successfully were minerals. 
One is or is not a successful mineralogist according 
as one is or is not allowed a geological hammer. 
I had a geological hammer. To scour the cliffs 
armed with a geological hammer and a bag for 
specimens is to be a king among boys. The only 
specimen I can remember taking with my hammer 
was a small piece of shin. That was enough, 
however, to end my career as a successful minera- 
logist. As an unsuccessful one I persevered for 
some months, and eventually had a collection of 
eighteen units. They were put out on the bed 
every evening in order of size, and ranged from a 
large lump of Iceland spar down to a small dead 
periwinkle. In those days I could have told you 
what granite was made of. In those days I had 
over my bed a map of the geological strata of 
the district in different colours like a chocolate 
macaroon. And in those days I knew my way 
to the Geological Museum. 

As a botanist I never really shone, but two of 
us joined an open-air course and used to be taken 
expeditions into Kew Gardens and such places, 
N 193 

Not That It Matters 

where our lecturer explained to his pupils all 
grown-up save ourselves the less recondite 
mysteries. There was one golden Saturday when 
we missed the rendezvous at Pinner and had a 
picnic by ourselves instead ; and, after that, many 
other golden Saturdays when some unaccountable 
accident separated us from the party. I re- 
member particularly a day in Highgate Woods 
a good place for losing a botanical lecturer in ; if 
you had been there, you would have seen two little 
boys very content, lying one each side of a large 
stone slab, racing caterpillars against each other. 

But there was one episode in my career as a 
natural scientist a career whose least details are 
brought back by the magic word, caterpillar 
over which I still go hot with the sense of failure. 
This was an attempt to stuff a toad. I don't 
know to this day if toads can be stuffed, but when 
our toad died he had to be commemorated in some 
way, and, failing a marble statue, it seemed 
good to stuff him. It was when we had got the 
skin off him that we began to realize our diffi- 
culties. I don't know if you have had the skin 
of a fair-sized toad in your hand ; if so, you will 
understand that our first feeling was one of sur- 
prise that a whole toad could ever have got into 
it. There seemed to be no shape about the thing 

Natural Science 

at all. You could have carried it no doubt we 
did, I have forgotten in the back of a watch. 
But it had lost all likeness to a toad, and it was 
obvious that stuffing meant nothing to it. 

Of course, little boys ought not to skin toads 
and carry geological hammers and deceive learned 
professors of botany ; I know it is wrong. And 
of course caterpillars of the puss-moth variety 
oughtn't to make faces at timid young thrushes. 
But it is just these things which make such 
pleasant memories afterwards when professors 
and toads are departed, when the hammers lie 
rusty in the coal cellar, and when the young 
thrushes are grown up to be quite big birds. 


On Going Dry o o o o o 

THERE are fortunate mortals who can always 
comfort themselves with a clich6. If any 
question arises as to the moral value of Racing, 
whether in war-time or in peace-time, they will 
murmur something about "improving the breed 
of horses," and sleep afterwards with an easy 
conscience. To one who considers how many 
millions of people are engaged upon this im- 
portant work, it is surprising that nothing more 
notable in the way of a super-horse has as yet 
emerged ; one would have expected at least by 
this time something which combined the flying- 
powers of the hawk with the diving-powers of 
the seal. No doubt this is what the followers of 
the Colonel's Late Wire are aiming at, and even 
if they have to borrow ten shillings from the till 
in the good cause, they feel that possibly by 
means of that very ten shillings Nature has 
approximated a little more closely to the desired 
animal. Supporters of Hunting, again, will tell 

On Going Dry 

you, speaking from inside knowledge, that "the 
fox likes it," and one is left breathless at the 
thought of the altruism of the human race, which 
will devote so much time and money to amusing 
a small, bushy-tailed four-legged friend who 
might otherwise be bored. And the third 
member of the Triple Alliance, which has made 
England what it is, is Beer, and in support of 
Beer there is also a cliche ready. Talk to anybody 
about Intemperance, and he will tell you solemnly, 
as if this disposed of the trouble, that " one can 
just as easily be intemperate in other matters as 
in the matter of alcohol." After which, it seems 
almost a duty to a broad-minded man to go out 
and get drunk. 

It is, of course, true that we can be intemperate 
in eating as well as in drinking, but the results 
of the intemperance would appear to be different. 
After a fifth help of rice-pudding one does not 
become over-familiar with strangers, nor does an 
extra slice of ham inspire a man to beat his wife. 
After five pints of beer (or fifteen, or fifty) a man 
will "go anywhere in reason, but he won't go 
home " ; after five helps of rice-pudding, I 
imagine, home would seem to him the one- 
desired haven. The two intemperances may be 
equally blameworthy, but they are not equally 

Not That It Matters 

offensive to the community. Yet for some reason 
over-eating is considered the mark of the beast, 
and over-drinking the mark of rather a fine 

The poets and other gentlemen who have 
written so much romantic nonsense about " good 
red wine " and " good brown ale " are responsible 
for this. I admit that a glass of Burgundy is a more 
beautiful thing than a blancmange, but I do not 
think that it follows that a surfeit of one is more 
heroic than a surfeit of the other. There may 
be a divinity in the grape which excuses excess, 
but if so, one would expect it to be there even 
before the grape had been trodden on by some- 
body else. Yet no poet ever hymned the man 
who tucked into the dessert, or told him that he 
was by way of becoming a jolly good fellow. He 
is only by way of becoming a pig. 

" It is the true, the blushful Hippocrene." To 
tell oneself this is to pardon everything. How- 
ever unpleasant a drunken man may seem at first 
sight, as soon as one realizes that he has merely 
been putting away a blushful Hippocrene, one 
ceases to be angry with him. If Keats or some- 
body had said of a piece of underdone mutton, 
" It is the true, the blushful Canterbury," in- 
digestion would carry a more romantic air, and 

On Going Dry 

at the third helping one could claim to be a bit 
of a devil. " The beaded bubbles winking at the 
brim " this might also have been sung of a 
tapioca-pudding, in which case a couple of tapioca- 
puddings would certainly qualify the recipient as 
one of the boys. If only the poets had praised 
over-eating rather than over-drinking, how much 
pleasanter the streets would be on festival nights ! 
I suppose that I have already said enough to 
have written myself down a Temperance Fanatic, 
a Thin-Blooded Cocoa-Drinker, and a number of 
other things equally contemptible ; which is all 
very embarrassing to a man who is composing at 
the moment on port, and who gets entangled in 
the skin of cocoa whenever he tries to approach 
it. But if anything could make me take kindly 
to cocoa, it would be the sentimental rubbish 
which is written about the "manliness" of 
drinking alcohol. It is no more manly to drink 
beer (not even if you call it good brown ale) than 
it is to drink beef-tea. It may be more healthy ; 
I know nothing about that, nor, from the diversity 
of opinion expressed, do the doctors ; it may be 
cheaper, more thirst-quenching, anything you like. 
But it is a thing the village idiot can do and 
often does, without becoming thereby the spiritual 
comrade of Robin Hood, King Harry the Fifth, 

Not That It Matters 

Drake, and all the other heroes who (if we are 
to believe the Swill School) have made old 
England great on beer. 

But to doubt the spiritual virtues of alcohol is 
not to be a Prohibitionist. For my own sake I 
want neither England nor America dry. Whether 
I want them dry for the sake of England and 
America I cannot quite decide. But if I ever do 
come to a decision, it will not be influenced by 
that other cliche, which is often trotted out com- 
placently, as if it were something to thank Heaven 
for: "You can't make people moral by Act of 
Parliament." It is not a question of making 
them moral, but of keeping them from alcohol. 
It may be a pity to do this, but it is obviously 
possible, just as it is possible to keep them that 
is to say, the overwhelming majority of them 
from opium. Nor shall I be influenced by the 
argument that such prohibition is outside the 
authority of a Government. For if a Government 
can demand a man's life for reasons of foreign 
policy, it can surely demand his whisky for 
reasons of domestic policy; if it can call upon 
him to start fighting, it can call upon him to stop 

But if opium and alcohol is prohibited, you say, 
why not tobacco ? When tobacco is mentioned, 

On Going Dry 

I feel like the village Socialist, who was quite 
ready to share two theoretical cows with his 
neighbour, but when asked if the theory applied 
also to pigs, answered indignantly, "What are 
you talking about I've got two pigs ! " I could 
bear an England which "went dry," but an 

England which "went out" ! So before 

assenting to the right of a Government to rob 
the working-man of his beer, I have to ask myself 
if I assent to its right to rob me of my pipe. 
Well, if it were agreed by a majority of the 
community (in spite of all my hymns to Nicotine) 
that England would be happier without tobacco, 
then I think I should agree also. But I might 
feel that I should be happier without England 
Just a little way without the Isle of Man, say. 


A Misjudged Game -o o **> o 

( *HESS has this in common with making 
\s poetry, that the desire for it comes upon the 
amateur in gusts. It is very easy for him not 
to make poetry; sometimes he may go for 
months without writing a line of it. But 
when once he is delivered of an ode, then the 
desire to write another ode is strong upon him. 
A sudden passion for rhyme masters him, and 
must work itself out. It will be all right in a 
few weeks ; he will go back to prose or bills- 
of-parcels or whatever is his natural method of 
expressing himself, none the worse for his ad- 
venture. But he will have gained this know- 
ledge for his future guidance that poems never 
come singly. 

Every two or three years I discover the game 
of chess. In normal times when a man says to 
me, " Do you play chess ? " I answer coldly, 
"Well, I know the moves." "Would you like 
a game ? " he asks, and I say, " I don't think I 

A Misjudged Game 

will, thanks very much. I hardly ever play." 
And there the business ends. But once in two 
years, or it may be three, circumstances are 
too strong for me. I meet a man so keen or 
a situation so dull that politeness or boredom 
leads me to accept. The board is produced, 
I remind myself that the queen stands on a 
square of her own colour, and that the knight 
goes next to the castle ; I push forward the 
king's pawn two squares, and we are off. Yes, 
we are off; but not for one game only. For 
a month at least I shall dream of chess at night 
and make excuses to play it in the day. For a 
month chess will be even more to me than golf 
or billiards games which I adore because I am 
so bad at them. For a month, starting from 
yesterday when I was inveigled into a game, 
you must regard me, please, as a chess maniac. 

Among small boys with no head for the game 
I should probably be described as a clever player. 
If my opponent only learnt yesterday, and is still 
a little doubtful as to what a knight can do, I 
know one or two rather good tricks for re- 
moving his queen. My subtlest stroke is to wait 
until Her Majesty is in front of the king, and 
then to place my castle in front of her, with a 
pawn in support. Sometimes I forget the pawn 

Not That It Matters 

and he takes my castle, in which case I try to 
look as if the loss of my castle was the one 
necessary preliminary to my plan of campaign, 
and that now we were off. When he is busy on 
one side of the board, I work a knight up on the 
other, and threaten two of his pieces simul- 
taneously. To the extreme novice I must seem 
rather resourceful. 

But then I am an old hand at the game. 
My career dates from well, years ago when I 
won my house championship at school. This 
championship may have carried a belt with it; 
I have forgotten. But there was certainly a 
prize a prize of five solid shillings, supposing 
the treasurer had managed to collect the sub- 
scriptions. In the year when I won it I was 
also treasurer. I assure you that the quickness 
and skill necessary for -winning the competition 
were as nothing to that necessary for collecting 
the money. If any pride remains to me over 
that affair, if my name is written in letters of 
fire in the annals of our house chess club, it is 
because I actually obtained the five shillings. 

After this the game did not trouble me for 

some time. But there came a day when a 

friend and I lunched at a restaurant in which 

chess-boards formed as permanent a part of 


A Misjudged Game 

the furniture of the dining tables as the salt 
and mustard. Partly in joke, because it seemed 
to be the etiquette of the building, we started 
a game. We stayed there two hours . . . and 
the fever remained with me for two months. 
Another year or so of normal development 
followed. Then I caught influenza and spent 
dull days in bed. Nothing can be worse for 
an influenza victim than chess, but I suppose 
my warders did not realize how much I suffered 
under the game. Anyhow, I played it all day 
and dreamed of it all night a riot of games in 
which all the people I knew moved diagonally 
and up and down, took each other, and became 

And now I have played again, and am once 
more an enthusiast. You will agree with me, 
will you not, that it is a splendid game? 
People mock at it. They say that it is not 
such good exercise as cricket or golf. How 
wrong they are. That it brings the same 
muscles into play as does cricket I do not 
claim for it. Each game develops a different 
set t>f sinews; but what chess-player who has 
sat with an extended forefinger on the head of 
his queen for five minutes, before observing the 
enemy's bishop in the distance and bringing 

Not That It Matters 

back his piece to safety what chess-player, I 
say, will deny that the muscles of the hand ridge 
up like lumps of iron after a month at the best 
of games ? What chess-player who has stretched 
his arm out in order to open with the Ruy Lopez 
gambit, who has then withdrawn it as the possi- 
bilities of the Don Quixote occur to him, and 
who has finally, after another forward and 
backward movement, decided to rely upon the 
bishop's declined pawn what chess-player, I 
ask, will not affirm that the biceps are elevated 
by this noblest of pastimes ? And, finally, what 
chess-player, who in making too eagerly the 
crowning move, has upset with his elbow the 
victims of the preliminary skirmishing, so that 
they roll upon the floor what chess-player, who 
has to lean down and pick them up, will not 
be the better for the strain upon his diaphragm ? 
No ; say what you will against chess, but do 
not mock at it for its lack of exercise. 

Yet there is this against it. The courtesies 
of the game are few. I think that this must be 
why the passion for it leaves me after a month. 
When at cricket you are bowled first ball, the 
wicketkeeper can comfort you by murmuring 
that the light is bad ; when at tennis your 
opponent forces for the dedans and strikes you 

A Misjudged Game 

heavily under the eye, he can shout, "Sorry!" 
when at golf you reach a bunker in 4 and take 
3 to get out, your partner can endear himself by 
saying, " Hard luck " ; but at chess everything 
that the enemy does to you is deliberate. He 
cannot say, " Sorry ! " as he takes your knight ; 
he does not call it hard luck when your king 
is surrounded by vultures eager for his death ; 
and though it would be kindly in him to attri- 
bute to the bad light the fact that you never 
noticed his castle leaning against your queen, 
yet it would be quite against the etiquette of 
the game. 

Indeed, it is impossible to win gracefully at 
chess. No man yet has said " Mate ! " in a 
voice which failed to sound to his opponent 
bitter, boastful, and malicious. It is the tone 
of that voice which, after a month, I find it 
impossible any longer to stand. 


A Doubtful Character o *> o 

I FIND it difficult to believe in Father Christ- 
inas. If he is the jolly old gentleman he is 
always said to be, why doesn't he behave as such ? 
How is it that the presents go so often to the 
wrong people ? 

This is no personal complaint ; I speak for 
the world. The rich people get the rich pre- 
sents, and the poor people get the poor ones. 
That may not be the fault of Father Christmas ; 
he may be under contract for a billion years to 
deliver all presents just as they are addressed ; 
but how can he go on smiling ? He must long 

to alter all that. There is Miss Priscilla A 

who gets five guineas worth of the best every 

year from Mr. Cyril B who hopes to be her 

heir. Mustn't that make Father Christmas mad ? 
Yet he goes down the chimney with it just the 
same. When his contract is over, and he has a 
free hand, he'll arrange something about that, 
I'm sure. 


A Doubtful Character 

If he is the jolly old gentleman of the pictures 
his sense of humour must trouble him. He must 
be itching to have jokes with the parcels. " Only 
just this once," he would plead. " Let me give 
Mrs. Brown the safety-razor, and Mr. Brown the 
night-dress case; I swear I won't touch any of 
the others." Of course that wouldn't be a very 
subtle joke ; but jolly old gentlemen with white 
beards aren't very subtle in their humour. They 
lean to the broader effects the practical joke 
and the pun. I can imagine Father Christmas 
making his annual pun on the word " reindeer," 
and the eldest reindeer making a feeble attempt 
to smile. The younger ones wouldn't so much 
as try. Yet he would make it so gaily that you 
would love him even if you couldn't laugh. 

Coming down chimneys is dangerous work for 
white beards, and if I believed in him I should 
ask myself how he manages to keep so clean. 
I suppose his sense of humour suggested the 
chimney to him in the first place, and for a year 
or two it was the greatest joke in the world. 
But now he must wish sometimes that he came 
in by the door or the window. Some chimneys 
are very dirty for white beards. 

Have you noticed that children, who hang up 
their stockings, always get lots of presents, and 
o 209 

Not That It Matters 

that we grown-ups, who don't hang up our 
stockings, never get any ? This makes me think 
that perhaps after all Father Christmas has some 
say in the distribution. When he sees an empty 
stocking* he pops in a few things on his own 
account with " from Aunt Emma " pinned on 
to them. Then you write to Aunt Emma to 
thank her for her delightful present, and she is 
so ashamed of herself for not having sent you 
one that she never lets on about it. But when 
Father Christmas doesn't see a stocking, he just 
leaves you the embroidered tobacco pouch from 
your sister and the postal order from your rich 
uncle, and is glad to get out of the house. 

Of his attitude towards Christmas cards I 
cannot speak with certainty, but I fancy that he 
does not bring these down the chimney too ; the 
truth being, probably, that it is he who composes 
the mottoes on them, and that with the customary 
modesty of the author he leaves the distribution 
of them to others. " The old, old wish a merry 
Christmas and a happy New Year " he considers 
to be his masterpiece so far, but " A righte merrie 
Christemasse " runs it close. " May happy hours 
be yours " is another epigram in the same vein 
which has met with considerable success. You 
can understand how embarrassing it would be to 


A Doubtful Character 

an author if he had to cart round his own works, 
and practically to force them on people. This is 
why you so rarely find a Christmas card in your 

There is one other thing at which Father Christ- 
mas draws the line ; he will not deliver venison. 
The reindeer say it comes too near home to them. 
But, apart from this, he is never so happy as when 
dealing with hampers. He would put a plum- 
pudding into every stocking if he could, for like 
all jolly old gentlemen with nice white beards 
he loves to think of people enjoying their food. 
I am not sure that he holds much with chocolates, 
although he is entrusted with so many boxes 
that he has learnt to look on them with kindly 
tolerance. But the turkey idea, I imagine 
(though I cannot speak with authority), the 
turkey idea was entirely his own. Nothing like 
turkey for making the beard grow. 

If I believed in Father Christmas I should ask 
myself what he does all the summer all the 
year, indeed, after his one day is over. The 
reindeer, of course, are put out to grass. 
But where is Father Christmas ? Does he sleep 
for fifty-one weeks ? Does he shave, and mix 
with us mortals? Or does he yes, that must 
be it does he spend the year in training, 

Not That It Matters 

in keeping down his figure ? Chimney work 
is terribly trying; the figure wants watching if 
one is to carry it through successfully. This is 
especially so in the case of jolly old gentlemen 
with white beards. I can see Father Christmas, 
as soon as his day is over, taking himself off to 
the Equator and running round and round it. 
By next December he is in splendid condition. 

When his billion years are over, when his 
contract expires and he is allowed a free hand 
with the presents, I suppose I shall not be alive 
to take part in the distribution. But none the 
less I like to think of the things I should get. 
There are at least half a dozen things which I 
deserve, and Father Christmas knows it. In 
any equitable scheme of allotment I should 
come out well. " Half a minute," he would say, 
" I must just put these cigars aside for the gentle- 
man who had the picture post card last year. 
What have you got there ? The country cottage 
and the complete edition of Meredith ? Ah yes, 
perhaps he'd better have those too." 

That would be something like a Father 

Thoughts on Thermometers o o 

OUR thermometer went down to 11 deg. the 
other night. The excitement was intense- 
It was, of course, the first person down to break- 
fast who rushed into the garden and made the 
discovery, and as each of us appeared he was 
greeted with the news. 

" I say, do you know there were twenty-one 
degrees of frost last night ? " 

" Really ? By Jove ! " 

We were all very happy and talkative at 
breakfast an event rare enough to be chronicled. 
It was not that we particularly wanted a frost, 
but that we felt that, if it was going to freeze, it 
might as well do it properly so as to show other 
nations that England was still to be reckoned 
with. And there was also the feeling that if the 
thermometer could get down to 11 deg. it might 
some day get down to zero ; and then perhaps 
the Thames would be frozen over again at West- 
minster, and the papers would be full of strange 

Not That It Matters 

news, and generally speaking life would be a 
little different from the ordinary. In a word, there 
would be a chance of something " happening " 
which, I take it, is why one buys a thermometer 
and watches it so carefully. 

Of course, every nice thermometer has a device 
for registering the maximum and minimum 
temperatures, which can only be set with a 
magnet. This gives you an opportunity of using 
a magnet in ordinary life, an opportunity which 
occurs all too seldom. Indeed, I can think of no 
other occasion on which it plays any important 
part in one's affairs. It would be interesting to 
know if the sale of magnets exceeds the sale of 
thermometers, and if so, why ? and it would, also 
be interesting to know why magnets are always 
painted red, as if they were dangerous, or belonged 
to the Government, or but this is a question into 
which it is impossible to go now. My present 
theme is thermometers. 

Our thermometer (which went down to 11 
deg. the other night) is not one of your common 
mercury ones ; it is filled with a pink fluid which 
I am told is alcohol, though I have never tried. 
It hangs in the kitchen garden. This gives you 
an excuse in summer for going into the kitchen 
garden and leaning against the fruit trees. " Let's 

Thoughts on Thermometers 

go and look at the thermometer " you say to your 
guest from London, and just for the moment he 
thinks that the amusements of the country are 
not very dramatic. But after a day or two he 
learns that what you really mean is, "Let's go 
and see if any fruit has blown down in the night." 
And he takes care to lean against the right tree. 
An elaborate subterfuge, but necessary if your 
gardener is at all strict. 

But whether your thermometer hangs in the 
kitchen garden or at the back of the shrubbery, 
you must recognize one thing about it, namely, 
that it is an open-air plant. There are people 
who keep thermometers shut up indoors, which 
is both cruel and unnecessary. When you com- 
plain that the library is a little chilly as surely 
you are entitled to they look at the thermometer 
nailed to the Henry Fielding shelf and say, " Oh 
no ; I don't think so. It's sixty-five." As if any- 
body wanted a thermometer to know if a room 
were cold or not. These people insult thermo- 
meters and their guests further by placing one 
of the former in the bathroom soap-dish, in order 
that the latter may discover whether it is a hot or 
cold bath which they are having. All decent people 
know that a hot bath is one which you can just 
bear to get into, and that a cold bath is one which 

Not That It Matters 

you cannot bear to think of getting into, but have 
to for honour's sake. They do not want to be 
told how many degrees Fahrenheit it is. 

The undersized temperature-taker which the 
doctor puts under your tongue before telling you 
to keep warm and take plenty of milk puddings 
is properly despised by every true thermometer- 
lover. Any record which it makes is too personal 
for a breakfast- table topic, and moreover it is a 
thermometer which affords no scope for the 
magnet. Altogether it is a contemptible thing. 
An occasional devotee will bite it in two before 
returning it to its owner, but this is rather a 
strong line to take. It is perhaps best to avoid 
it altogether by not being ill. 

A thermometer must always be treated with 
care, for the mercury once spilt can only be 
replaced with great difficulty. It is considered to 
be one of the most awkward things to pick up 
after dinner, and only a very steady hand will 
be successful. Some people with a gift for 
handling mercury or alcohol make their own 
thermometers ; but even when you have got the 
stuff into the tube, it is always a question where 
to put the little figures. So much depends upon 

Now I must tell you the one hereditary failing 

Thoughts on Thermometers 

of the thermometer. I had meant to hide it 
from you, but I see that you are determined to 
have it. It is this : you cannot go up to it and 
tap it. At least you can, but you don't get that 
feeling of satisfaction from it which the tapping 
of a barometer gives you. Of course you can 
always put a hot thumb on the bulb and watch 
the mercury run up ; this is satisfying for a short 
time, but it is not the same thing as tapping. 
And I am wrong to say " always," for in some 
thermometers indeed, in ours, alas! the bulb 
is wired in, so that no falsifying thumb can get 
to work. However, this has its compensations, 
for if no hot thumb can make our thermometer 
untrue to itself, neither can any cold thumb. And 
so when I tell you again that our thermometer 
did go down to 1 1 deg. the other night, you have 
no excuse for not believing that our twenty-one 
degrees of frost was a genuine affair. In fact, 
you will appreciate our excitement at breakfast. 


For a Wet Afternoon o o o 

LET us consider something seasonable ; let us 
consider indoor games for a moment. 

And by indoor games I do not mean anything 
so serious as bridge and billiards, nor anything so 
commercial as vingt-et-un with fish counters, nor 
anything so strenuous as " bumps." The games 
I mean are those jolly, sociable ones in which 
everybody in the house can join with an equal 
chance of distinction, those friendly games which 
are played with laughter round a fire what time 
the blizzards rattle against the window-pane. 

These games may be divided broadly into two 
classes ; namely, paper games and guessing games. 
The initial disadvantage of the paper game is 
that pencils have to be found for everybody ; 
generally a difficult business. Once they are 
found, there is no further trouble until the game 
is over, when the pencils have to be collected 
from everybody ; generally an impossible business. 
If you are a guest in the house, insist upon a paper 

For a Wet Afternoon 

game, for it gives you a chance of acquiring a pencil ; 
if you are the host, consider carefully whether you 
would not rather play a guessing game. 

But the guessing game has one great dis- 
advantage too. It demands periodically that a 
member of the company should go out by himself 
into the hall and wait there patiently until his 
companions have "thought of something." (It 
may be supposed that he, too, is thinking of some- 
thing in the cold hall, but perhaps not liking to 
say it.) However careful the players are, un- 
pleasantness is bound to arise sometimes over 
this preliminary stage of the game. I knew of 
one case where the people in the room forgot all 
about the lady waiting in the hall and began to 
tell each other ghost stories. The lights were 
turned out, and sitting round the flickering fire 
the most imaginative members of the household 
thrilled their hearers with ghostly tales of the 
dead. Suddenly, in the middle of the story of 
Torfrida of the Towers a lady who had strangled 
her children, and ever afterwards haunted the 
battlements, headless, and in a night-gown the 
door opened softly, and Miss Robinson entered 
to ask how much longer they would be. Miss 
Robinson was wearing a white frock, and the 
effect of her entry was tremendous. 

Not That It Matters 

I remember, too, another evening when we 
were playing "proverbs." William, who had 
gone outside, was noted for his skill at the 
game, and we were determined to give him 
something difficult ; something which hadn't a 
camel or a glass house or a stable door in it. 
After some discussion a member of the company 
suggested a proverb from the Persian, as he 
alleged. It went something like this : " A wise 
man is kind to his dog, but a poor man riseth 
early in the morning." We took his word for it, 
and, feeling certain that William would never 
guess, called him to come in. 

Unfortunately William, who is a trifle absent- 
minded, had gone to bed. 

To avoid accidents of this nature it is better 
to play " clumps," a guessing game in which the 
procedure is slightly varied. In "clumps" two 
people go into the hall and think of something, 
while the rest remain before the fire. Thus, 
however long the interval of waiting, all are 
happy ; for the people inside can tell each other 
stories (or, as a last resort, play some other game) 
and the two outside are presumably amusing 
themselves in arranging something very difficult. 
Personally I adore clumps ; not only for this reason, 
but because of its revelation of hidden talent. 

For a Wet Afternoon 

There may be a dozen persons in each clump, 
and in theory every one of the dozen is supposed 
to take a hand in the cross-examination, but in 
practice it is always one person who extracts the 
information required by a cataract of searching 
questions. Always one person and generally a 
girl. I love to see her coming out of her shell. 
She has excelled at none of the outdoor games 
perhaps ; she has spoken hardly a word at meals. 
In our little company she has scarcely seemed 
to count. But suddenly she awakes into life. 
Clumps is the family game at home ; she has 
been brought up on it. In a moment she dis- 
covers herself as our natural leader, a leader 
whom we follow humbly. And however we may 
spend the rest of our time together, the effect of 
her short hour's triumph will not wholly wear 
away. She is now established. 

But the paper games will always be most 
popular, and once you are over the difficulty of 
the pencils you may play them for hours without 
wearying. But of course you must play the 
amusing ones and not the dull ones. The most 
common paper game of all, that of making small 
words out of a big one, has nothing to recommend 
it; for there can be no possible amusement in 
hearing somebody else read out "but," "bat," 

Not That It Matters 

"bet," "bin," "ben," and so forth, not even if 
you spend half an hour discussing whether " ben " 
is really a word. On the other hand your game, 
however amusing, ought to have some finality 
about it; a game is not really a game unless 
somebody can win it. For this reason I cannot 
wholly approve " telegrams." To concoct a 
telegram whose words begin with certain selected 
letters of the alphabet, say the first ten, is to 
amuse yourself anyhow and possibly your friends ; 
whether you say, " Am bringing camel down early 
Friday. Got hump. Inform Jamrach " ; or, 
" Afraid better cancel dinner engagement. 
Fred got horrid indigestion. JANE." But it is 
impossible to declare yourself certainly the 
winner. Fortunately, however, there are games 
which combine amusement with a definite result ; 
games in which the others can be funny while 
you can get the prize or, if you prefer it, the 
other way about. 

When I began to write this, the rain was 
streaming against the window-panes. It is now 
quite fine. This, you will notice, often happens 
when you decide to play indoor games on a wet 
afternoon. Just as you have found the pencils, 
the sun conies out. 


Declined with Thanks *> o o 

A PARAGRAPH in the papers of last week 
recorded the unusual action of a gentleman 
called Smith (or some such name) who had refused 
for reasons of conscience to be made a justice of 
the peace. Smith's case was that the commission 
was offered to him as a reward for political services, 
and that this was a method of selecting magistrates 
of which he did not approve. So he showed his 
contempt for the system by refusing an honour 
which most people covet, and earned by this 
such notoriety as the papers can give. " Portrait 
(on page 8) of a gentleman who has refused 
something ! " He takes his place with Brittle- 
bones in the gallery of freaks. 

The subject for essay has frequently been 
given, "If a million pounds were left to you, 
how could you do most good with it ? " Some 
say they would endow hospitals, some that they 
would establish almshouses ; there may even be 
some who would go as far as to build half a 

Not That It Matters 

Dreadnought. But there would be a more 
decisive way of doing good than any of these. 
You might refuse the million pounds. That 
would be a shock to the systems of the comfort- 
able a blow struck at the great Money God 
which would make it totter ; a thrust in defence 
of pride and freedom such as had not been seen 
before. That would be a moral tonic more 
needed than all the draughts of your newly 
endowed hospitals. Will it ever be adminis- 
tered ? Well, perhaps when the D.W.T. club has 
grown a little stronger. 

Have you heard of the D.W.T. the Declined- 
with-Thanks Club? There are no club rooms 
and not many members, but the balance sheet 
for the last twelve months is wonderful, show- 
ing that more than 11,000 was refused. The 
entrance fee is one hundred guineas and the 
annual subscription fifty guineas ; that is to say, 
you must have refused a hundred guineas before 
you can be elected, and you are expected to 
refuse another fifty guineas a year while you 
retain membership. It is possible also to com- 
pound with a life refusal, but the sum is not 
fixed, and remains at the discretion of the 

Baines is a life member. He saved an old 

Declined with Thanks 

lady from being run over by a motor bus some 
years ago, and when she died she left him a 
legacy of 1000. Baines wrote to the executors 
and pointed out that he did not go about dragging 
persons from beneath motor buses as a profession ; 
that, if she- had offered him 1000 at the time, 
he would have refused it, not being in the habit 
of accepting money from strangers, still less from 
women ; and that he did not see that the fact of 
the money being offered two years later in a will 
made the slightest difference. Baines was earn- 
ing 300 a year at this time, and had a wife and 
four children, but he will not admit that he did 
anything at all out of the common. 

The case of Sedley comes up for consideration 
at the next committee meeting. Sedley's rich 
uncle, a cantankerous old man, insulted him 
grossly ; there was a quarrel ; and the old man 
left, vowing to revenge himself by disinheriting 
his nephew and bequeathing his money to a cats' 
home. He died on his way to his solicitors, and 
Sedley was told of his good fortune in good legal 
English. He replied, "What on earth do yot 
take me for ? I wouldn't touch a penny. Give 
it to the cats' home or any blessed thing you 
like." Sedley, of course, will be elected as an 
ordinary member, but as there is a strong feeling 
p 225 

Not That It .Matters 

on the committee that no decent man could have 
done anything else, his election as a life member 
is improbable. 

Though there are one or two other members 
like Baines and Sedley, most of them are men 
who have refused professional openings rather 
than actual money. There are, for instance, 
half a dozen journalists and authors. Now a 
journalist, before he can be elected, must have 
a black-list of papers for which he will refuse 
to write. A concocted wireless message in the 
Daily Blank, which subsequent events proved to 
have been invented deliberately for the purpose 
of raking in ha'pennies, so infuriated Henderson 
(to take a case) that he has pledged himself never 
to write a line for any paper owned by the same 
proprietors. Curiously enough he was asked a 
day or two later to contribute a series to a most 
respectable magazine published by this firm. 
He refused in a letter which breathed hatred 
and utter contempt in every word. It was 
Henderson, too, who resigned his position as 
dramatic critic because the proprietor of his 
paper did rather a shady thing in private life. 
" I know the paper isn't mixed up in it at all," 
he said, " but he's my employer and he pays me. 
Well, I like to be loyal to my employers, and if 

Declined with Thanks 

I'm loyal to this man I can't go about telling 
everybody that he's a dirty cad. As I particularly 
want to." 

Then there is the case of Bolus the author. 
He is only an honorary member, for he has not 
as yet had the opportunity of refusing money or 
work. But he has refused to be photographed 
and interviewed, and he has refused to contribute 
to symposia in the monthly magazines. He has 
declined with thanks, moreover, invitations to 
half a dozen houses sent to him by hostesses 
who only knew him by reputation. Myself, I 
think it is time that he was elected a full 
member ; indirectly he must have been a 
financial loser by his action, and even if he is 
not actually assisting to topple over the Money 
God, he is at least striking a blow for the cause 
of independence. However, there he is, and 
with him goes a certain M.P. who contributed 
20,000 to the party chest, and refused scorn- 
fully the peerage which was offered to him. 

The Bar is represented by P. J. Brewster, 
who was elected for refusing to defend a sus- 
pected murderer until he had absolutely convinced 
himself of the man's innocence. It was suggested 
to him by his legal brothers that counsel did 
not pledge themselves to the innocence of their 

Not That It Matters 

clients, but merely put the case for one side in 
a perfectly detached way, according to the best 
traditions of the Bar. Brewster replied that he 
was also quite capable of putting the case for 
Tariff Reform in a perfectly detached way accord- 
ing to the best traditions of The Morning Post, 
but as he was a Free Trader he thought he 
would refuse any such offer if it were made to 
him. He added, however, that he was not in 
the present case worrying about moral points of 
view ; he was simply expressing his opinion that 
the luxury of not having little notes passed to 
him in court by a probable murderer, of not 
sharing a page in an illustrated paper with him, 
and of not having to shake hands with him if he 
were acquitted, was worth paying for. Later on, 
when as K.C., M.P., he refused the position of 
standing counsel to a paper which he was always 
attacking in the House, he became a life member 
of the club. 

But it would be impossible to mention all the 
members of the D.W.T. by name. I have been 
led on to speaking about the club by the mention 
of that Mr. Smith (or whatever his name was) 
who refused to be made a justice of the peace. 
If Mr. Smith cared to put up as an honorary 
member, I have no doubt that he would be 

Declined with Thanks 

elected ; for though it is against the Money God 
that the chief battle is waged, yet the spirit of 
refusal is the same. " Blessed are they who 
know how to refuse," runs the club's motto, " for 
they will have a chance to be clean." 


On Going into a House o o o 

T T is nineteen years since I lived in a house ; 

JL nineteen years since I went upstairs to bed 
and came downstairs to breakfast. Of course 
I have done these things in other people's houses 
from time to time, but what we do in other 
people's houses does not count. We are holiday- 
making then. We play cricket and golf and 
croquet, and run up and down stairs, and amuse 
ourselves in a hundred different ways, but all this 
is no fixed part of our life. Now, however, for 
the first time for nineteen years, I am actually 
living in a house. I have (imagine my excite- 
ment) a staircase of my own. 

Flats may be convenient (I thought so myself 
when I lived in one some days ago), but they 
have their disadvantages. One of the disad- 
vantages is that you are never in complete 
possession of the flat. You may think that the 
drawing-room floor (to take a case) is your very 
own, but it isn't ; you share it with a man below 

On Going into a House 

who uses it as a ceiling. If you want to dance 
& step-dance, you have to consider his plaster. 
I I was always ready enough to accommodate 
nnyself in this matter to his prejudices, but I 
could not put up with his old-fashioned ideas 
about bathroom ceilings. It is very cramping to 
one's style in the bath to reflect that the slightest 
splash may call attention to itself on the ceiling 
of the gentleman below. This is to share a 
bathroom with a stranger an intolerable position 
for a proud man. To-day I have a bathroom of 
my own for the first time in my life.^ 

I can see already that living in a house is going 
to be extraordinarily healthy both for mind and 
body. At present I go upstairs to my bedroom (and 
downstairs again) about once in every half-hour ; 
not simply from pride of ownership, to make sure 
that the bedroom is still there, and that the 
staircase is continuing to perform its functions, 
but in order to fetch something, a letter or a key, 
which as likely as not I have forgotten about 
again as soon as I have climbed to the top of the 
house. No such exercise as this was possible in 
a flat, and even after two or three days I feel the 
better for it. But obviously I cannot go on like 
this, if I am to have leisure for anything else. 
With practice I shall so train my mind that, 

Not That It Matters 

when I leave my bedroom in the morning, I leave 
it with everything that I can possibly require 
until nightfall. This, I imagine, will not happen 
for some years yet ; meanwhile physical training 
has precedence. 

Getting up to breakfast means something 
different now ; it means coming down to break- 
fast. To come down to breakfast brings one 
immediately in contact with the morning. The 
world flows past the window, that small and (as 
it seems to me) particularly select portion of 
the world which finds itself in our quiet street ; 
I can see it as I drink my tea. When I lived 
in a flat (days and days ago) anything might 
have happened to London, and I should never 
have known it until the afternoon. Everybody 
else could have perished in the night, and I 
should settle down as complacently as ever to 
my essay on making the world safe for democracy. 
Not so now. As soon as I have reached the 
bottom of my delightful staircase I am one with 
the outside world. 

Also one with the weather, which is rather 
convenient. On the third floor it is almost 
impossible to know what sort of weather they 
are having in London. A day which looks cold 
from a third-floor window may be very sultry 

On Going into a House 

down below, but by that time one is committed 
to an overcoat. How much better to live in a 
house, and to step from one's front door and 
inhale a sample of whatever day the gods have 
sent. Then one can step back again and dress 

But the best of a house is that it has an 
outside personality as well as an inside one. 
Nobody, not even himself, could admire a man's 
flat from the street ; nobody could look up and 
say, "What very delightful people must live 
behind those third-floor windows." Here it is 
different. Any of you may find himself some 
day in our quiet street, and stop a moment to 
look at our house ; at the blue door with its 
jolly knocker, at the little trees in their blue 
tubs standing within a ring of blue posts linked 
by chains, at the bright-coloured curtains. You 
may not like it, but we shall be watching you 
from one of the windows, and telling each other 
that you do. In any case, we have the pleasure 
of looking at it ourselves, and feeling that we are 
contributing something to London, whether for 
better or for worse. We are part of a street 
now, and can take pride in that street. Before, 
we were only part of a big unmanageable 


Not That It Matters 

It is a solemn thought that I have got this 
house for (apparently) eighty-seven years. One 
never knows, and it may be that by the end of 
that time I shall be meditating an article on the 
advantages of living in a flat. A flat, I shall say, 
is so convenient. 


The Ideal Author o o o o 

QAMUEL BUTLER made a habit (and urged 
wJit upon every young writer) of carrying a 
notebook about with him. The most profitable 
ideas, he felt, do not come from much seeking, 
but rise unbidden in the mind, and if they are 
not put down at once on paper, they may be 
lost for ever. But with a notebook in the 
pocket you are safe ; no thought is too fleeting 
to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration for a 
five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you 
during the dessert, you murmur an apology to 
your neighbour, whip out your pocket-book, and 
jot down a few rough notes. " Hero choked 
peach-stone eve marriage Lady Honoria. Pch- 
tree planted by jltd frst love. Ironyofthings. 
Tragic." Next morning you extract your note- 
book from its white waistcoat, and prepare to 
develop your theme (if legible) a little more fully. 
Possibly it does not seem so brilliant in the cold 
light of morning as it did after that fourth glass 

Not That It Matters 

of Bellinger. If this be so, you can then make 
another note say, for a short article on "Dis- 
illusionment." One way or another a notebook 
and a pencil will keep you well supplied with 

If I do not follow Butler's advice myself, it is 
not because I get no brilliant inspirations away 
from my inkpot, nor because, having had the 
inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until 
I get back to my inkpot again, but simply 
because I should never have the notebook and 
the pencil in the right pockets. But though I 
do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom, 
even while making fun of it. Yet I am sure it 
was unwise of him to take the public into his 
confidence. The public prefers to think that an 
author does not require these earthly aids to 
composition. It will never quite reconcile itself 
to the fact that an author is following a profes- 
sion a profession by means of which he pays the 
rent and settles the weekly bills. No doubt the 
public wants its favourite writers to go on living, 
but not in the sordid way that its barrister and 
banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that 
manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that 
the ravens erected them a residence ; but, having 
regretfully to reject this theory, it likes to keep 

The Ideal Author 

up the pretence that the thousand pounds that 
an author received for his last story came as 
something of a surprise to him being, in fact, 
really more of a coincidence than a reward. 

The truth is that a layman will never take an 
author quite seriously. He regards authorship, 
not as a profession, but as something between 
an inspiration and a hobby. In as far as it is an 
inspiration, it is a gift from Heaven, and ought, 
therefore, to be shared with the rest of the 
world ; in as far as it is a hobby, it is something 
which should be done not too expertly, but in 
a casual, amateur, haphazard fashion. For this 
reason a layman will never hesitate to ask of 
an author a free contribution for some local 
publication, on such slender grounds as that he 
and the author were educated at the same school 
or had both met Robinson. But the same man 
would be horrified at the idea of askiug a Harley 
Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely con- 
nected with him) to remove his adenoids for 
nothing. To ask for this (he would feel) would 
be almost as bad as to ask a gift of ten guineas 
(or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer 
for an article is like asking a friend to decant, 
your port for you a delicate compliment to his 
particular . talent. But in truth the matter is 

Not That It Matters 

otherwise ; and it is the author who has the 
better right to resent such a request. For the 
supply of available adenoids is limited, and if the 
surgeon hesitates to occupy himself in removing 
one pair for nothing, it does not follow that in 
the time thus saved be can be certain of getting 
employment upon a ten-guinea pair. But when 
a Harley Street author, has written an article, 
there are a dozen papers which will give him 
his own price for it, and if he sends it to his 
importunate schoolfellow for nothing, he is 
literally giving up, not only ten or twenty or a 
hundred guineas, but a publicity for his work 
which he may prize even more highly. More- 
over, he has lost what can never be replaced 
an idea ; whereas the surgeon would have lost 

Since, then, the author is not to be regarded 
as a professional, he must by no means adopt 
the professional notebook. He is to write by 
inspiration ; which comes as regularly to him. 
(it is to be presumed) as indigestion to a lesser- 
favoured mortal. He must know things by 
intuition ; not by experience or as the result 
of reading. This, at least, is what one gathers 
from hearing some people talk about our 
novelists. The hero of Smith's new book goes 

The Ideal Author 

to the Royal College of Science, and the public 
says scornfully : " Of course, he would. Because 
Smith went to the Royal College himself, all his 
heroes have to go there. This isn't art, this is 
photography." In his next novel Smith sends 
his hero to Cambridge, and the public says indig- 
nantly, " What the deuce does Smith know about 
Cambridge ? Trying to pretend he is a 'Varsity 
man, when everybody knows that he went to the 
Royal College of Science! I suppose he's been 
mugging it up in a book." Perhaps Brown's 
young couple honeymoons in Switzerland. " So 
did Brown," sneer his acquaintances. Or they 
go to Central Africa. " How ridiculous," say his 
friends this time. " Why, he actually writes as 
though he'd been there ! I suppose he's just spent 
a week-end with Sir Harry Johnston." Meredith 
has been blamed lately for being so secretive 
about his personal affairs, but he knew what he 
was doing. Happy is the writer who has no 
personal affairs; at any rate, he will avoid this 
sort of criticism. 

Indeed, Isaiah was the ideal author. He in- 
truded no private affairs upon the public. He 
took no money for his prophecies, and yet man- 
aged to live on it. He responded readily, I 
imagine, to any request for " something prophetic, 

Not That It Matters 

you know/' from acquaintances or even strangers. 
Above all, he kept to one style, and did not worry 
the public, when once it had got used to him, by 
tentative gropings after a new method. And 
Isaiah, we may be sure, did not carry a notebook. 






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